Captive Orca Update

Captive Orca Update

SeaWorld’s Excuses for Orca Entertainment Are a Complete Flop

Earlier this month, IDA attended a roundtable discussion in San Diego where SeaWorld defended their captive orca programs and attempted to regain public trust. SeaWorld has been under fire ever since Tillikum, an adult male orca, killed a third person and the movie, Blackfish, heavily promoted by CNN, was released. The roundtable discussion was put together by the Voice of San Diego to debate what SeaWorld and Blackfish mean for San Diego. Participants included world renowned orca biologist and orca expert Dr. Naomi Rose, Susan Gray Davis, a former U.C. San Diego professor who studied SeaWorld’s business model, Dr. Todd Robeck, the veterinarian responsible for SeaWorld’s orca breeding program, and Kristi Burtis, a SeaWorld orca trainer. SeaWorld currently keeps 10 orcas (Kalia is pregnant with who will be the 11th if calf survives) crammed into unbearably small tanks in San Diego.

IDA_seaworld_orca_062514dBefore the evening discussion, IDA spent all day observing the orcas and listening to SeaWorld’s propaganda during their shows. Sadly, the orcas spent their time swimming in circles, begging for food, performing demeaning tricks or floating on the surface. From an outsiders view, they are completely bored and imprisoned in tiny SeaWorld tanks. They can never escape their cramped, barren and artificial environment. Physiologically, the impacts of captivity are far worse than what we can see on the outside and are proven to cause premature death.

The roundtable discussion was incredible to witness because it was the first time SeaWorld responded to the public about its killer whale program. SeaWorld surely must regret this because Dr. Rose had a credibly scientific and/or peer reviewed response for most, if not every one of SeaWorld’s ridiculous reasons for holding orcas in captivity (scroll down for video).

Just a few examples include a response from Dr. Rose that stifled SeaWorld’s spin about the life spans of orcas in the wild being comparable to orcas in captivity. Dr. Rose was able to point out Sea World has had 50 years to prove orca life spans are at least equal to or greater in captivity than in the wild, but has completely failed with this experiment.

Dr. Rose also eloquently slammed SeaWorld’s justification that orcas worn down teeth at SeaWorld are a natural occurrence because of similar observations in the wild. She pointed out that “offshore” orcas (a specific ecotype of orcas) eat sharks and as a consequence have worn down teeth. This is because sharks have scales that are rough like sandpaper. Of particular importance in this case, however, is the fact that the teeth of offshore

Worn down teeth to the gums.

Worn down teeth to the gums.

orcas are not worn down to the gums. At SeaWorld, orcas are not fed sharks and therefore should not have worn down teeth and most importantly, not worn down to the gums. SeaWorld thus flailed at best with their excuses for why orcas teeth at SeaWorld are worn down the gums. Dr. Rose presented her finding that this problem observed in captive orcas is a factor related to their premature deaths.

Dr. Rose’s underlying arguments to SeaWorld were fairly simple: Tell the truth, update your business model, and leave the orcas out of it.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to watch the movie, Blackfish. You will learn more about the business and deadly impacts to both orcas and people associated with their public display.

If you have any questions about orcas and want to get further involved, please feel free to contact me at

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