Wild orcas (also known as killer whales) naturally live in closely bonded matrilineal pods and stay close to their immediate family members all their lives. They swim up to 100 miles a day, making them one of the most widely ranging mammals in the world. They possess brains over four times larger than our human brains while MRI scans have revealed that the brain lobes that deal with the processing of complex emotions are also larger in an orca’s brain than in a human one. There is little doubt that being forced to live in captivity has an adverse emotional effect on these sensitive animals: in October, a tragic video emerged which showed a mother orca in Sea World San Diego floating vertically in her tank, too depressed to feed her calf.
The typical lifespan of a wild orca is forty to fifty years … but they can live to be significantly older than that. Granny – the head matriarch of the J-Pod – is believed to be 104 years of age! Sadly, captive orcas rarely get to enjoy this degree of longevity. A 2013 Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) study revealed that 33 orcas who were born in captivity – and had since died – up to that time survived to an average of only 4.5 years. The average life expectancy of orcas forced to live in a tank is 19 years for males, and 30 years for females.
Common problems experienced by captive orcas – seldom witnessed in their wild counterparts – include collapsed dorsal fins, aggression amongst tank mates, abnormal repetitive behaviors, self-mutilation, and unusual illnesses. In fact, Sea World has had to resort to medicating their orcas with psychoactive, Valium-like drugs in an effort to stave off some of these maladies.
No doubt about it, orcas tend to do a whole lot better when they are permitted to live as nature intended, in the open ocean. Sometimes, it is only when we are presented with awe-inspiring images or videos of these animals in their natural habitat that we can fully appreciate just how true this is. Monterey Whale Watch, a California-based organization, recently provided us with even more evidence that those tanks should be emptied ASAP, by publishing a series of stunning photographs of wild orcas to their Facebook page!
The pictures were taken by Daniel Bianchetta.
They are simply awe-inspiring.
Can you imagine how it must have felt to get right up close to these incredible beings?
Few experiences could have been more thrilling than this.
Watching these whales roam free, in their natural environment, makes it more clear than ever that this is how all whales (plus dolphins, and indeed, all other animals exploited by the captive entertainment industry) should live.
Even in this still image, their power and majesty is plain to see – we can really imagine them moving through the waves.
These wild orcas get to move about and jump out of the water as often they like – of their own volition, not because a human has told them to.
Just watch them go!
Do you think this whale is wishing to him or herself, “if only I were jumping through a hoop right now, with crowds of screaming tourists goading me on?” Uhhh … nope.
Or maybe these two are longing for a dinner of frozen fish, which will be given to them only if they manage to perform a certain trick correctly? … Yeah, we didn’t think so.
Somehow, we think these beautiful wild orcas are doing just fine without the interference – uh, sorry, we meant “expert care” – of marine amusement park staff. If only the same could be said of all orcas…
All Image Source: Monterey Bay Whale Watch/Facebook