Killer whales (also known as orcas) – a majestic but threatened marine species – have long been targeted for use as captive performers by marine amusement parks such as SeaWorld and Marineland. SeaWorld has engaged in extensive efforts to clean up their reputation, following the damaging revelations of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s 2013 documentary “Blackfish.” However, the truth about the cramped, frustrating lives experienced by their captive animals is revealing itself at an unstoppable pace.
In the wild, orcas can swim up to 100 miles in a single day, and dive to a depth of 200 feet. Their captive tanks, however, enable them to experience only a fraction of the space they would have in the open ocean. Scientists believe that the relatively stationary lives of captive orcas is a leading driver behind the phenomenon of dorsal fin collapse: a common condition amongst captive male orcas, that is almost unheard of in the wild.
Wild orcas are born into closely bonded matrilineal pods and typically choose to spend their entire lives alongside their families once they reach sexual maturity. Marine parks, on the other hand, force them into artificial social groups that may be changed at the whim of park management at any given time.
On Sunday, Oct. 18, Nick Templeman, researcher with The Transient Killer Whale Research Project (TKWRP), went out on a whale watching trip with fellow orca enthusiasts … and the pictures they managed to take will blow you away. They clearly demonstrate just how beautiful these animals truly are, when they are permitted to explore their natural habitat and enjoy the sensation of jumping out of the water now and then … without being commanded to do so by a human!
The photos were taken in Cape Mudge, Quadra Island, off the coast of British Columbia.
The orcas are members of the J, K, and L pods.
Templeman said, “In twenty years of operating I have never witnessed all three pods together, nor have I ever seen them come up this way ALL together … usually, it’s smaller sub-pods.”
Templeman was able to identify individual group members – the two shown in this photograph are L72 and K14.
For the researchers, the sight of all these orcas gathered together was truly awe-inspiring.
They were clearly at ease in their natural environment and did not need any human telling them to perform.
Templeman also recorded “lots of surface foraging behavior from the orcas” – as there was an abundance of salmon in the area – and has promised to post more pictures at a later date.
The contrast between the freedom of the orcas portrayed in Templeman’s photographs, and the restrictive lives experienced by their captive counterparts, is heartbreaking. With public awareness of these animals’ plight continuing to increase, and committed activists doing all that they can to see them freed, we can only hope that the tanks will indeed be emptied one day.
To find out more about the work of the TKWRP, visit their Facebook page.
All Image Source: Nick Templeman/Facebook