What is going on in SeaWorld?
SeaWorld. What do you think of when you hear it? I bet there’s an orca somewhere in there.
Orcas, Shamu, killer whales – all the same animal. Giant black and white whales, known for their “killer” instincts, hence the name. These great sea mammals rule oceans in pods, oftentimes hunting larger whales. Their large size and quickness, attributed to their dolphin ancestry, make them a tough opponent for any ocean prey. Living in the colder waters surrounding Antarctica, Norway, Russia, and Alaska, these oceanic giants have been fascinating to mankind since their discovery in the 1500s.
So fascinating that some have attempted to capture them, and succeeded. So fascinating that they were sold off to theme parks and “marine” institutes. So fascinating that they are still on display in countries across the globe.
Since 1961, at least one hundred sixty six orcas have been stolen from the wild and forced into captivity. Out of those one hundred sixty six, one hundred twenty nine are dead. Forty four of those orcas died at SeaWorld, and SeaWorld still holds eighteen orcas today.
A popular documentary released in 2013 titled Blackfish honed in on the cruelties occurring behind the walls of SeaWorld. Though the parks have attempted to cover up incidents, deaths of orcas and trainers have reflected extremely poorly on their name. Blackfish focused on an orca named Tilikum who was taken from the wild at only two years old. Tilikum killed three trainers while in SeaWorld, and while SeaWorld claims that he was just aggressive, it is known that his aggression stemmed from being alone, confined, and away from his kind. Several videos shown during the documentary include Tilikum bashing his head against the concrete of his pool, seemingly in rage over his isolation. Tilikum passed away in SeaWorld after thirty four years of captivity.
Tilikum is not the only orca who has suffered in confinement. Orcas in confinement are often seen with floppy dorsal fins and shaved down teeth, both results of their captivity. Lack of space in pools prevents orcas from swimming at the high speeds they do in the ocean, causing their dorsal fins to be nearly useless and therefore flopping over. Their teeth are harmed as they chew on concrete walls or metal bars surrounding them.
The horror doesn’t end there. SeaWorld has tried several times to breed orcas on their premises using artificial insemination. One orca who is still in captivity, Corky, has had seven babies while at SeaWorld. All of them are dead. None of them survived.
Thankfully, in 2016, SeaWorld did announce that they would no longer be attempting to breed orcas, and that the generation in their parks currently would be the last.
I have still sworn to myself not to support SeaWorld – they still have nineteen orcas in their parks. They are sentencing those nineteen orcas to death. Depriving them of their freedom in the ocean and leaving them in a pool to spend the rest of their lives.
What is going on in SeaWorld? It’s not a rescue, it’s a trap for orcas.
Photo Credit: Celavient de Susan, Wikipedia, Okura