It would be extremely difficult to find someone who isn’t amazed by orca whales. These whales are some of the most complex, developed animals on the planet, and as we study them more and more, we only get further insight into how brilliant they truly are. Much like humans, orca whales live in tight social and family pods, they have distinct dialects and are the only animals, aside from humans, thought to have evolved as a result of their culture. They have been known to empathize with one another – there is even one pod who was documented actively caring for a disabled member of their pod.
Given all that we know about these animals, it is becoming increasingly difficult for facilities like SeaWorld and other marine parks to justify keeping orcas in captivity. We know how intelligent and self-aware orcas are and how captivity negatively impacts their mental and physical health, yet because orcas turn a profit for these attractions, they continue to be exploited.
Marine park officials like to explain away captive orcas’ odd behaviors as being “normal” or “playful,” but the footage above tells a much different story. In the footage we see Morgan, a female orca at Loro Parque, located in Tenerife, Spain, beaching herself on the concrete side of her tank. A similar video of Morgan displaying this behavior was recently captured and shared widely. It is against orcas natural instinct to beach themselves in this way as the weight of their bodies when out of water can be painful on their internal organs. If they stay out of water long enough they can cause serious damage, and their skin will also dry out.
In response to the first video of Morgan grounding herself, many spoke out asserting Morgan might have been knowingly trying to end her life, likely due to her extreme depression. In this video, we see Morgan haul herself on land and stay there for nine minutes. It is only when her trainer signals her back into the water and gives her a treat that she returns. Moments later, however, she returns back to the side of the pool, languishing in the heat.
While we cannot speak to what exactly it is that Morgan is thinking, there is one thing that is glaringly clear, she does not belong in a tank. Orcas need a wild environment where they can engage and interact with their pods and experience the true mental stimulation of hunting fish and exploring their territory. In a tank the equivalent size of a bathtub, orcas become extremely depressed and traumatized. This experience has even lead to the death of three trainers, one of which happened at Loro Parque many years ago.
We can all help orcas like Morgan by refusing to attend marine parks. When people stop paying to see animals suffer, we can finally #EmptyTheTanks. Share this video and encourage others to as well. No animal should have to suffer like this for the sake of our entertainment.