There has been a great amount of public debate on the subject of orca captivity in recent years, much of it spurred on by the release of the 2013 documentary Blackfish. However, a picture truly can paint a thousand words … and a thirteen-year-old artist named Megan Torisawa cut to the very heart of the issue with her heartbreaking illustration of an orca being pushed down to the very bottom of a fish bowl.

Megan, who lives in Canada, was moved to draw this picture after learning about the death of an orca named Unna, who passed away at SeaWorld San Antonio on December 21.



Unna had been suffering from a resistant strain of fungus called Candida that did not respond well to treatment … and ultimately claimed her life, at the age of just 18 (she had been days away from her 19th birthday).

In the wild, orcas live in tightly bonded matrilineal pods, often composed of several different generations of the same family. They usually choose to spend their entire lives alongside their families and travel up to 100 miles a day through the open ocean. This makes them the most widely-ranging mammal on Earth. Their brains are between four to five times larger than ours while the lobes that deal with the processing of complex emotions are also significantly more advanced. The average life expectancy of a wild orca for males is 30 years old, but they have been known to live until 50 or 60; females have an average lifespan of 50 years, but can live much longer. Granny, the matriarch of a family known within whale-watching circles as J-Pod, for example, is believed to be about 104 years old!

Common problems experienced by captive orcas include unusual illnesses, a significantly shorter life expectancy, bouts of aggression against one another and against their trainers, abnormal repetitive behaviors, and depression. Male orcas often experience dorsal fin collapse, which is thought to be caused by a lack of exercise. As Megan so succinctly put it on Instagram: “Dorsal fins should never collapse!”

To learn more about how you can help the world’ 58 captive orcas, read this article. You can follow Megan’s work through her Instagram page.

Lead Image Source: Rojer/Flickr

In-text Image Source: Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project/Facebook