Captive vs. Wild Orcas
P.1. Imagine living your whole life without your family in a tiny area where you are forced to perform tricks for an audience. That is the life of the orcas at SeaWorld. Orcas, also known as killer whales, are large black and white whales and are the largest members of the dolphin family. There are many differences between captive and wild orcas. For example, captive orcas at SeaWorld live shorter lives than orcas living free in the wild. Another example would be that orcas at SeaWorld are fed dead fish, while wild orcas can hunt their own food and have a variety. Captive orcas also suffer from physical injuries, depression, and psychosis due to their lives in confinement. In order to really see how poorly captive whales are treated they have to be compared to the wild orcas who are out living freely and healthy.
P.2. SeaWorld has been providing false information about their whales for decades. One of the biggest lies they talk about is the lifespan of the captive whales compared to the lifespan of the free whales. They claim on their website that no one knows the exact life span of wild orcas but then they go on to say that SeaWorld’s whales live just as long as the wild orcas. On the lifespan of killer whales page on their website they say that “female killer whales live around 30 to 50 years and males live around 19 to 30 years.” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says, “males typically live for about 30 years, but can live as long as 50-60 years; females typically live about 50 years, but can live as long as 100 years.” SeaWorld is providing younger ages on their page because those are the typical lifespans of their whales held in captivity. Also less than two years ago a 103 year old female orca was spotted off the coast of Washington, which made SeaWorld’s lie look a lot worse. These whales being kept in captivity don’t live nearly as long as the whales living out free in the wild and the research is there to prove it.
P.3 Orcas are known as killer whales for a reason. This reason is because they hunt and kill other large sea animals for food. A wild orcas diet usually consists of a variety of fish and sea mammals such as seals, small whales and sometimes sharks. Their diet can range from fish to seabirds to sea turtles and they normally eat whatever animal they can find. The orcas sometimes work together to successfully hunt these animals and they come up with strategies to trap the prey that they are hunting. On the other hand, the captive whales held at SeaWorld are only fed thawed fish and they can’t eat whenever they please. In the article, “Food Deprivation Is Alive and Well at SeaWorld” by Elizabeth Batt, she talks about former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove’s book called Beneath the Surface. When explaining how the orcas ate at SeaWorld, ” Hargrove’s point wasn’t that SeaWorld starved the whales, it was that food withholding was used as a motivator to keep them hungry enough to want to perform in shows for fish rewards.” They are only motivated to cooperate to the commands because they are so hungry and they know if they cooperate they will get food. If they are not cooperating during the shows their amount of fish given per day is also decreased in order to get them to perform well. In addition, in the article, “SeaWorld Says ‘The Facts Are On Our Side.’ Let’s Look At The ‘Facts.'” a former trainer claims that orcas were starved before visits from celebrities or VIP guests so that they would perform well. SeaWorld has denied using food deprivation to make its orcas perform but it is clearly true that they do. Captive orcas will never be able to hunt and they won’t be eating anything other than a small amount of fish for the rest of their lives.
P.4 Orcas that live out in the wild travel around 100 miles per day and they always travel with other whales, usually their pods, or family members. They have strong bonds with each other out in the wild. They are able to swim freely and go as deep or as far as they feel like. Orcas in captivity are kept in shallow tiny pools resulting in them having to swim in the same circle all day long. They are also alone in these tanks or sometimes when they are with other orcas that they are not compatible with they fight each other which results in injuries and sometimes even death. If fights do occur there isn’t much that can be done considering the fact that the whales can’t just swim away or hide since they are in the tiny pool. Orcas in the wild live in distinct units called ecotypes and each one is very different from another. They would never interact out in the wild being that they are all from different parts of the world. But at SeaWorld their ecotype isn’t taken into consideration, causing two whales of different ecotypes to be forced to interact with each other which causes problems such as fighting. In 1989 there was an indecent during a live show where one orca rammed the other causing it to bleed to death due to a torn artery. These orcas were from two distinct ecotypes and were placed into the same pool which resulted in a tragic loss. In the article “Why Killer Whales Should Not Be Kept in Captivity” by Melissa Hogenboom, she says that “different ecotypes do not associate with each other in the wild, so it can be problematic if they are suddenly forced together.” It is not right to put two animals together in a small tank and expect them to get along when they are very different from each other and not familiar with interacting with one another.
P.5 One of the major physical differences between wild and captive whales is the dorsal fin. The dorsal fin of a captive orca is almost always collapsed, usually more often in males. On the physical characteristics of orcas page on SeaWorld’s website they state “However, as killer whales at SeaWorld tend to spend more time at the surface working with their trainers, and many of the males have slumped or bent dorsal fins, it seems probable that time spent at the surface may be a contributing factor.” This shows that SeaWorld is admitting to the fact that being kept in these shallow pools causes their dorsal fins to collapse. But, by blaming the dorsal fin collapse on the shallow-pool lifestyle of captive whales, SeaWorld is ignoring the other explanations: that depression, lack of exercise, and isolation from their ecotype familiars are causing a profound physical manifestation of the animals’ suffering. They are using this explanation as an excuse to hide all these other reasons that their dorsal fins collapse. Whales in the wild can travel fast and far and are able to swim at very deep measures unlike the captive whales so their dorsal fins are straight and tall. They do not have the stress or depression that captive orcas have and they can swim freely in their ecotypes to get the exercise they need.
P.6. Lastly, these captive whales suffer psychological trauma such as madness and severe stress. Many of the orcas at SeaWorld have broken teeth from biting on the steel gates from stress causing severe dental problems and painful holes having to be drilled. There is only one known death of a wild orca killing a human, but there are four deaths and over a dozen severe injuries from whales in captivity. In one of the cases with the wild orca it initially identified the human as prey and then ceased when they realized it was a mistake. But for the whales at SeaWorld it was not a mistake. It is said that these attacks were due to stress, frustration, and lots of aggression built up over time. All of these attacks from the captive whales were at SeaWorld and they never would have occurred if these whales were living free like the rest of the orca population, considering the fact that they do not hunt humans.
P.7. Overall, the differences between free whales and captive whales is astonishing and these differences show how different their lives really are. These differences also show SeaWorld’s lies to the public on topics such as treatment of their orcas, their life expectancy, and their health. Orcas belong out in the wild and they should not have to suffer for the entertainment purposes of a company.
Batt, Elizabeth. “‘Food Deprivation Is Alive and Well at SeaWorld,’ Says Former Trainer.” Ric OBarrys Dolphin Project RSS. N.p., 26 June 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.
Entertainment, SeaWorld Parks &. Lifespan. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
Entertainment, SeaWorld Parks &. “Physical Characteristics.” Animals: Explore. Discover. Connect. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2017.
Fisheries, NOAA. “Killer Whale (Orcinus Orca).” NOAA Fisheries. N.p., 08 Jan. 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.
Hogenboom, Melissa. “BBC – Earth – Why Killer Whales Should Not Be Kept in Captivity.”BBC News. BBC, 10 Mar. 2016. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.
Schelling, Ameena. “SeaWorld Says ‘The Facts Are On Our Side.’ Let’s Look At The ‘Facts.'”The Dodo. N.p., 07 May 2015. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.