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A Sad Day at Seaworld

February 26th, 2010 by Webmaster

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Tillikum preforming at Sea World - Photo Credit : Reuters: Mathieu Belanger

Tillikum preforming at Sea World - Photo Credit : Reuters: Mathieu Belanger

Reporters are calling it a sad day at Seaworld. For the animals, everyday is a sad day at Seaworld. Tillikum, an orca (commonly known as a “Killer Whale”), attacked and killed his trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando on Wednesday. While IDA has the deepest sympathy for the trainer’s family and their tragic loss, the ongoing misery these intelligent, long-lived, socially complex animals cannot be comprehended.

Killer Whales travel long distances each day, sometimes swimming in a straight line for a hundred miles, other times remaining in a certain area for hours or days, moving several miles along a coastline and then turning to retrace their path. These marine mammals can dive up to several hundred meters and stay underwater for up to half an hour. They spend only 10 to 20% of their time at the surface.  In captivity, Killer Whales must spend up to 80% of their time at the surface of the water seeking scraps of food and attention.

This is theprobable cause of the dorsal fin collapse, because without the support of water, gravity pulls these tall appendages over as the whale matures. Collapsed fins are experienced by all captive male orcas and many captive female orcas, who were either captured as juveniles or who were born in captivity.  They have been observed in only about 1% of orcas in the wild.

In captivity, killer whales must swim in circles or constantly peer through the fences (stereotypical behavior) or floating listlessly on the surface of the water. These behaviors indicate that the animal is bored and psychologically stressed. Wild Killer Whales rarely lie still and with the entire ocean at their disposal, they would have no need to swim in circles!

This particular orca, Tilikum, has an especially bad situation.  He is the oldest living captive orca which means he has suffered the most psychologically and physiological stress of all. The park plans to adjust the protocol with which to handle him, and is not ruling out using him in shows and will continue to use him as a stud.

A 12,000 pound orca should not be in a concrete and chlorine tank coerced to give “kisses” and do tricks.  SeaWorld seems to have no problem exploiting animals by confining them permanently and putting their employees and the public at risk to make money- lots of money.
I do believe that most of the trainers love the animals they manipulate. Somehow the trainers and the aquaria justify what they are doing with words like “conservation” and “education”, but ripping these majestic creatures from the vast oceans, separating them from their families, and forcing them to swim circles till their dorsal fin droops from lack of deep diving is heartless. If only they could wake up to the reality of exploitation as Rick O’Barry, the trainer of the famous dolphin Flipper did. O’Barry has since denounced keeping marine mammals in captivity and has dedicated himself to end the dolphin slaughter in Japan.

When orcas first arrive into the tank, they attempt to use their sonar, but it just bounces off the walls and becomes maddening, so they cease using sonar for communication. It is well known that emotional and psychological factors play a huge part in the behavior of these sentient animals who are able to exhibit cognitive abilities similar to us, humans. It has also been observed that confining such intelligent animals with complex social systems in small spaces leads them to exhibit neurotic behaviors. One can only imagine how the stress of captivity in completely unnatural surroundings compounded by the abnormal demands from training and performance could lead to tragic results.

It’s time to put a stop to snatching such majestic animals from the wild for unnecessary exhibitionism. It’s time to honor their undeniable right to freedom and end the breeding of such animals in captivity for the animal’s well-being , as well as for our own human safety.

Please click here to send an e-mail to Hamilton James, the President of The Blackstone Group, which operates SeaWorld. Urge SeaWorld to get out of the cruel business of keeping marine mammals in captivity.