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It is natural to see a wild animal, like a killer whale, and be absolutely captivated by them. These creatures exist in a world entirely different from ours and have intellectual and emotional abilities that are so advanced we don’t even understand them yet.

This, unfortunately, has lead to the development of facilities like marine parks that attempt to better understand these animals – or at least, this was the initial intention of marine parks. Today, given all we know about how captivity negatively impacts orcas, keeping them in places like SeaWorld seems to be solely profit driven.

SeaWorld has become the poster marine park dedicated to convincing the world that the environment they’ve manufactured for orcas is comparable to their wild home — if not better. In fact, statements released by SeaWorld even seem to demonstrate that they believe orcas are “safer” in captivity than their natural home.

Sure, orcas in captivity might not have to worry about ship strikes or collapsing food resources, but is it really worth missing out on all the natural experience that make orcas…well, orcas?

When you take a look at what exactly the captive orcas at SeaWorld are missing out on by living in glorified bathtubs, those trade-offs suddenly aren’t so clear.

1. Exploring and Traveling

X things captive orcas never experienceFlickr


On any given day, whales and dolphins can travel an average of 100 miles a day, spending their time playing, socializing and hunting. SeaWorld would like the public to believe this is an exaggeration and that their needs can still be met swimming circles in a tank the size of a bathtub.

In truth, all whales and dolphins may not travel 100 miles per day EVERY DAY, but many certainly do. In captivity, they’re not even allotted the luxury of being able to feel the current or move freely without colliding into a concrete obstruction. SeaWorld has attempted to “improve” this aspect of their orca’s lives by adding wave “treadmills” into the pools. Basically, this means that the pools contain jets of streaming water that give the whales the feeling of swimming against 30 miles per hour water currents. While this is undoubtedly an improvement from sitting in stagnant water, anyone who has spent time running on a treadmill can testify to the monotony that occurs after a few hours. Orcas are incredibly intelligent and need to be mentally stimulated by their surroundings just as much as they need the exercise.

2. Family Bonding

X things captive orcas never experiencePixabay


Wild pods of orcas consist of kin from various generations. Typically lead by the oldest living female, a social hierarchy within each distinct pod is ever present, with each member of the pod playing a unique role that is essential to the success of the pod. Research has discovered just how incredibly strong the bonds are between orca pods, with many rarely straying far from their family; specifically mothers and calves and mothers and adult sons.

Not only has SeaWorld repeatedly separated mothers and calves shortly after birth, but many of the mother whales also abandon or reject their babies because those that were born in captivity have no understanding of what it means to be a mother. SeaWorld runs an aggressive breeding program and forces their whales to reproduce long before they have reached the age that they would breed in the wild. This causes females a huge amount of stress, heightening the chance that they’ll reject their calf. Sadly, mortality rates and calf abandonment in captivity are incredibly high.

3. Hunting

X things captive elephants never experienceWikimedia


Being apex predators, orcas are at the top of their food chain. In the wild they’ll feed on fish, squid, birds and even other marine mammals including seals, sharks and whales. Members of a pod work together to hunt using a number of strategies that are passed down through generations. Because orcas are so widely distributed, most pods are incredibly unique and distinct from one another and their hunting techniques vary depending on the food sources available to them. Meal times are so much more than simple chances to eat for orcas, it is an opportunity to bond as well as utilize complex problem solving and communication skills. Not to mention, orcas play an important role in balancing the marine ecosystem and their eating habits play a huge role in this.

In captivity orcas are commonly fed species of fish they may not hunt in the wild, and those they are fed are frozen, lacking nutritional value and water content in comparison to fresh fish. Because of this, supplements are commonly provided in the form of vitamins and gelatin. Meals in captivity are not complex collaborative missions but mindless and even demeaning experiences for orcas as they have to perform nonsensical tricks in order to even get fed a handful of frozen fish.

How Can You Help?

SeaWorld has time and again conveniently disregarded the 30+ years of research scientists have acquired regarding wild orcas and instead pass off the exploitation of their animals as “research” or as being beneficial to “conservation.” But when you look at what life is really like for these animals in captivity, it begs the question of what are we learning from the unnatural behaviors orcas exhibit in tanks and how does holding them captive benefit wild populations?

These three experiences that SeaWorld orcas miss out on illustrate the simple fact that a captive orca isn’t really an orca at all, it is a commoditized being that bears only physical similarities to their wild counterparts. This isn’t something that we should wish on any living being.

The first step to ending the exploitation of captive orcas is to stop the breeding programs at all SeaWorld parks. There is no research or education in breeding these animals for our entertainment. Green Monsters, the tides are changing and we need your help! Take the pledge to never visit a marine park and urge SeaWorld to stop the abuse of these highly intelligent beings by ending their breeding programs!

All animals deserve the chance to lead the natural life they were intended to, it is up to us to ensure this happens for orcas – and every other animal!

Lead image graphic by Elizabeth Lee

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0 comments on “3 Things Orcas at SeaWorld Never Get to Experience”

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June Bird Killington
2 Years Ago

Grandmother Takes On Australian SeaWorld - Many thousands are speaking up for the captive performing dolphins at Sea World Gold Coast Australia with the help of international and local celebrities but we also need your help, and voice.

Jane Goodall says "SeaWorld Needs To Be Immediately Shut Down"

Harry Styles, Bianca Jagger, Martina Navratilova, Anthony La Paglia, Simon Cowell, Shailene Woodley, Pamela Anderson, Olivia Newton John, Ricky Gervais, Edie Falco, Bryan Adams, Matt Damon, Matthew Modine, Susan Sarandon, Kelly Slater, Willy Nelson, Cher,Rachel Hunter, Tommy Lee, Jennifer Aniston, Maggie Q, Nicholas Hoult, Stephen Fry, Jessica Chastain, Paul Rudd, Woody Harrelson, Rita Wilson, Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, David Crosby, Courtney Cox, Dave Navarro, Wynonna Judd, Kathy Griffin, Jessica Biel, Mariska Hargitay, James Gandolfini, John Leguizamo, Russell Simmons, Olivia Wilde, Scout LaRue Willis, Kelly Le Brock, Russell Brand, Joan Jett, Howard Stern, Aaron Paul (from \'Breaking Bad\'), Kathy Najimy, Niki Taylor, Hayden Panettiere, Mayim Bialik, Meg Matthews, Chet Faker, Wil Anderson, Todd McKenny, Christine Anu, Steve Kilbey, Marcia Hines, Sia, Tyson Beckford, Sinnitta, Ewan McGregor, Steve-O, Conan O\'Brien, Elvira, Josh Groban, Jason Biggs, Motley Crue, Arianna Grande, Krysten Ritter, Chloe Lattanzi, Sharni Vinson, Samantha Fox, Alexandra Paul, Gina Liano, Jonathan Coleman, Alyce Platt, The Veronicas, Tracey Spicer, Adam Zwar, Lincoln Lewis, Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon), Anthony Ackroyd, Livinia Nixon, Jane Barnes, Former Miss Universe Australia Laura Dundovic, Havana Brown, Cheyenne Tozzi, Caitlin Stasey, Silvana Philippoussis, Ella Hooper, Bianca Dye, Arj Barker, Annalise Braakensiek all say:


"The whole world is up in arms about Sea World and other aquaprisons. It\'s time that Australians opened their eyes and became educated to the cruelty of trapping and breeding dolphins as money-making slaves for greedybusinesspeople".

\'SEAWORLD SHUT DOWN on Facebook. The First & Only Campaign Against Sea World in Australia\' .

Trevor Long, Marine Science Director at Sea World Gold Coast says: "Dolphins aren\'t some amazing creature, in the wild they just rape and rape and rape". (Quoted from Gold Coast Bulletin interview January 2015).

Please help us to speak up for the captive performing dolphins at Sea World on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

We love them rescuing cetaceans but we loathe them keeping dolphins as captives in their aquaprison.

The dolphins need to be rehabilitated and freed or taken to a safe sanctuary/bay/cove paid for by Sea World to live out their lives without human interference.

India, Croatia, Hungary New York, South Carolina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Slovenia, Switzerland, Brazil, Luxembourg, Norway and the U.K have already banned cetaceans in captivity and so far there are over 16,850 signatures on the petition and a Facebook page with over 9,000 followers. Also on Twitter @seaworldisevil with over 6,160 Followers

The dolphins are caught from the ocean and brought to tanks/lagoons and are also bred in captivity where they are forced to perform for paying customers and given dead fish but only if they do tricks. All to make money for greedy Sea World business people.

"Sea World Gold Coast Australia - Keeping dolphins as prisoners since the 70s"


Robert Anderson
2 Years Ago

"demeaning experiences" is the key. I think these orca suffer more mental anguish from disrespectful treatment than from their miserable physical circumstances.

The last orcas SeaWorld captured 35 [and 36] years ago were allowed to interact with visitors, mostly unsupervised, for around 2 years. These orcas had the opportunity to establish friendships with non-staff humans. In spite of their apparent alieness, humans and orcas can develop significant emotional rapport. Not only did they enjoy focused attention and socializing, they had the opportunity to explore humans not bound by SeaWorld\'s agendas. And explore they did, whatever you were willing to put up with, like being mouthed and pulled into the pool, politely made offers you were always allowed to decline.

Notably, these orcas became friends with humans who did not feed them, although SeaWorld kept them hungry and sold fish to the visitors. They seemed to associate such offered food with SeaWorld\'s control regimens and preferred those who offered pure friendship instead. [Sometimes they would bring fish to a human friend.]

Some years after this practice ended, these same orcas and their offspring became the core of SeaWorld\'s most dangerous. They include orcas like Kasatka, "the most dangerous whale in the corporation" and Keto, the only orca other than Tilikum to have killed a human.

It was really simple to become friends with these orcas. All it took was giving them your respect and absolute trust. The orcas who were once able to contrast such regard with what they got from SeaWorld had the most negative reaction.

I learned what remarkably complex and intelligent creatures orcas are and haven\'t been to a SeaWorld in over 30 years.

2 Years Ago

Well if I am a whale I would be so happy at SeaWorld that I don\'t have to put up with being hunted, boat strikes, pollution, bacteria, if I am sick I get medicine, love, care and so much more. SeaWorld whales have none of this to worry about. They are the lucky ones. Look at the 4 whales that were just hunted and killed just for fun. I am sure they wish they were at SeaWorld now

Teresa Wagner
17 Jul 2015

Would you truly like to live in a space the size of a walk-in closet? Be masturbated by another species to collect your sperm, if female be artifically inseminated, have your children taken away from you, be given psychotropic drugs to keep you calm from the trauma of living in such a small space with absolutely no way to escape, and be forced to do stupid tricks to loud music and moronic people screaming and clapping in delight at your captivity. . . all so a greedy corporation can make billions of dollars at your expense? Only if you say yes to this can you truly support marine captivity.

Robert Anderson
17 Jul 2015

Of the 8 orcas SeaWorld captured 35 & 36 years ago, all but 2 died in their teens or single digit years. One of these died in a fight with another orca. One bashed her head into the pool wall until she died [suicide?] One died when his head was crushed by a gate between pools. The surviving 2 became SeaWorld\'s 1st "baby machines", kept constantly pregnant. So these are the lucky ones?.

18 Jul 2015

Maybe we should put you in a glass tank, take care of all your basic needs and then drop you in the ocean.

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