Seaworld began capturing wild Orcas in the 1960s to be used commercially in circus style performances because of their unique beauty, mesmerising size, trainability and high intelligence. Hundreds of wild orcas were captured in Pacific, Icelandic and Russian waters and sold on to parks like Seaworld. Sea cowboys hunted pods of orcas for miles until they had them surrounded with nets or cornered. The orca calves would then be ripped from their mother’s sides as they were easier to transport and to train. This would be the first of many cruel and traumatic experiences inflicted on these wild orcas. Over the years at least 44 Orcas have died at the hands of Seaworld. This is due to their poor qualities of life and Seaworld’s inadequate breeding programme.
SeaWorld is a United States chain of marine mammal parks, oceanariums, and animal theme parks owned by SeaWorld Entertainment. There are currently three Seaworld Parks located in San Antonio Texas, Orlando, Florida and San Diego, California. They currently own 24 orcas in their parks and have at least four on loan to Loro Parque in Spain. Anyone who has seen the documentary ‘Blackfish’ will be well aware of Seaworld and it’s actions as it was a very successful documentary that really opened the eyes of the public to the suffering of Orcas in captivity. This week Seaworld announced that they would be changing their Orca performances to be less degrading and have a more educational approach. Of course one only has to dig a little deeper to find that these shows will still include jump and splash tricks and this is just another attempt by Seaworld PR to try repair the damage caused after the release of ‘Blackfish’. Seaworld San Diego have also agreed to end their breeding of captive orcas in order to expand the size and quality of their tanks. Once again if you do a little research you’ll notice that very little funding has been invested in this project and there’s virtually no improvements to the environments or quality of the tanks bar size. The tanks these animals live in resemble nothing of their natural habitats. They’re literally swimming pools with no stimulation to keep these orcas interested, occupied and happy. Your goldfish’s tank at home is more stimulating than an orca’s in captivity. Besides having no stimulation these tanks are far too small. An orca in these tanks has to swim at least 1,400 laps of their pool to match the equivalent distance travelled daily by an orca in the wild. Since these tanks are so small the orcas are usually far too close to the surface of the water which often results in sun burn and the trademark of an orca in captivity which is the collapsed dorsal fin. There’s less than 1% reported collapsed dorsal fins in the wild and almost 100% collapsed dorsal fins in captivity. This is due to the prolonged period these whales spend just lounging aimlessly at the water surface. The fin collapses as a culmination of gravity, a lack of exercise and poor nutrition work together. The human equivalent to one of the orca’s pool is 2.1 metres in height, 5.7 metres in width and 9.2 metres in length. Imagine being trapped in such a confined space with nothing but your thoughts and tourists banging on your enclosure’s glass to entertain you. This is another psychological trauma suffered by Orcas in captivity. This particular whale is kept mainly in isolation and only integrated with other orcas for breeding purposes. Orcas are extremely social creatures who live in close family units of up to 15 orcas. They hunt, play and feed together. They bond for life and have unique vocalisations and calls within their pods. In captivity however orcas are forced into tightly spaced tanks with other orcas whom they’ve no relationship with. These orcas are often from different environments and have difficulty communicating with each other. This creates stressful, frustrating and tense situations and conflicts between the orcas which often results in altercations which cause injury as the orcas cannot flee from attacks in their confined tanks.
I started typing this almost an hour ago and only now I realise how far my ranting has gone so I apologise for that and I’m going to try and wrap it up now because it’s way too late. Seaworld presents itself as a caring organisation towards sea life but in reality they’re a greedy company exploiting animals for profit. For every $1,000,000 made by Seaworld only $600 goes towards Conservation ( that’s approximately 5c a ticket for anyone not so mathematically gifted like myself) Seaworld’s Orcas are subjected to a lot of cruelty and may be a significant factor in their lashing out. There have been 4 human deaths in captivity by orcas and none in the wild. There have been 100+ attacks on humans by orcas in captivity and only one reported in the wild. These statistics speak for themselves. These orcas are clearly unhappy in their environments and these attacks and deaths will continue until orcas are no longer used in shows and are moved to sea pens where they have some chance at a normal and happy life. In 2013 a trainer was killed during a private performance for an audience at Seaworld Orlando. This male killer whale known as Tilikum had been involved in several previous attacks but is still used today in performances and has sired 21 calves who could all carry his genetically predisposed aggressive tendencies. This is the same orca I previously mentioned who is kept in isolation. I visited Seaworld two years ago before I was aware of it’s cruelty and it was honestly one of the worst sights I’ve ever seen. I’m ashamed to say I supported such a place so I implore you to never visit Seaworld. I’d advise everyone to watch ‘Blackfish’ to educate themselves on the issue and form their own opinions. Below is the link to the trailer for Blackfish, if you agree with the cause against Seaworld I’d urge you to sign one of the many Petitions the WDC or PETA have or to donate to the WDC to help them save and protect whales and dolphins in the wild.