Mistreatment of Orcas

Annotated Bibliography

Orcas in the wild.

During Christmas of 2014, my family took a trip to Orlando for our annual family vacation. We journeyed to Disney World, but we also attended SeaWorld. I was so thrilled because I’ve always loved marine animals, especially Orcas.  I was in awe of how close I was to the large marine animals, but it felt wrong because aren’t large marine animals supposed to be in the deep sea? Not in a shallow clear tank. I chose to pick this topic because after watching the documentary, Blackfish, I was so disgusted. The dangers they face are unimaginable for humans.

Illustration in youtube video of possible locations orcas are sent too.

Since 1961, Orcas have been captured from oceans and forced to be a source of entertainment for humans at parks like SeaWorld. Sean Carmody said in his article that orcas learn their pod’s dialect from birth , in which they remember even many years after captivity. Orcas are highly social animals, they travel in groups (pods). Pods consist of 5-30 females, males, and babies. Mothers are essential to baby orcas as they form lifelong bonds. When capture boats venture to catch orcas, in most pods, male adults swim in one direction so that females and young ones can attempt escape. Capturers try to catch the young orcas because they are lighter to ship. “It was kidnapping a child from its mother.” (Blackfish)- John Crowe, one of the men working on the capture boats. When the young are taken, the other orcas devastated, they swim miles and miles behind the boat, trying to follow the little ones. Humans have emotions, that give us the ability to feel empathy, happiness, anger and etc. Orcas are more emotionally developed, as their brains are five times bigger than the average human brain. There have been instances where orcas would die of shock. In these cases, the men on the boats would cut the orca open, fill their insides with rocks and throw them back into the ocean. They dispose the dead orcas into the ocean because it is easier than throwing them away on land. When orcas arrive at their new home, they are suddenly confined to a super small pool.  It takes an orca to swim around their confined pool 1,400 times to equal how much of a distance orcas swim on a daily in the wild.

At SeaWorld, they provide false information to the visitors. Informing guests that “the killer whales only live up to 30 years in the wild, they live longer here because they get the extra veterinary care”- SeaWorld Employee video of SeaWorld employee (0:15-0:25). It is known after many years of scientific research that killer whales live as long as humans, especially females. Killer Whales in captivity die immensely younger than their natural lifespan. For example, they’re not in their original pod of orcas, which makes their life lonely and makes them agitated to attack trainers. In the wild, orcas are not violent towards each other because of their dominant social rules, and if fights occur, they would swim away. In captivity, there is no place to hide or run away. In the case of Tilikum (male orca at SeaWorld), two female orcas were aggressively attacking him, but due to Tilikum being a larger orca, he had no place to swim away. The water they are held in can be dangerous because it contains too much chlorine. Most orcas don’t survive over 10 years in captivity. Employees explains that 25% of all male orcas have their fins flopped over. Only male orcas can have collapsed dorsal fin. It is proven that in the wild, less than 1% of orcas have collapsed dorsal fins. These stats show some of the things I just covered.

Orcas are apex predators, they are on top of the food chain, and usually preys on sea lions, other whales and some sharks. Other than humans, no other animals hunt orcas. In captivity, they are fed gelatin, in attempt to keep them hydrated but it’s unnatural for orcas to consume so much gelatin in a day. When young orcas are born into captivity, they are naturally drawn to stay with their mothers. But most times, they are separated due to the babies interrupting their mothers performances at shows. When they’re separated, the mother will let out a long unique scream in hopes of having her baby returned to her. They isolate themselves in a quiet place, while they mourn.

Illustration of facts debunking SeaWorld’s claim of mother orcas.

In the last 50 years, there have not been one single reported case of human death by orcas in the wild. Yet in captivity, there have been 70 reported death cases. Males like Tilikum were used for his sperm. Tilikum, at the time, was the only male to breed with the other female orcas. The female orcas started breeding at a super young age. In the wild, female orcas begin to reproduce at age 14.9 years. At SeaWorld, they start breeding female orcas at age 8-10. Most of SeaWorld’s orcas are inbred, meaning due to lack of males or the artificial sperm, they really only rely on a couple of males. “Katina (popular female orca at SeaWorld) are inbred with even some of her sons.”- a source by the name of SeaWorld of hurt. An offspring’s father orca could also be the mother’s brother. Most orcas born in captivity are stillborn, due to difficulty and stress the mother orcas are constantly suffering from. The average life expectancy of captivity-born orcas are 13 years.

Picture of Lolita, the loneliest orca in captivity. Article is very interesting.

I hope to research more and see what I, as a young individual, can do for these mammals. I am looking forward to looking at ways to try and solve the problem and let society get a glimpse of the animal abuse that often can go unnoticed.

Opposition to orca captivity, still inhumane that there even numbers in favor.

Comments (1)

Jacob Prunes (Student 2021)
Jacob Prunes

I really liked your topic. I too have seen the orcas at seaworld. I really hate when wild animals are treated with disrespect. You gave a lot of info that really convinced me that orcas are being treated unfairly. Your post really kept me interested.