Five orcas currently at SeaWorld were kidnapped from their ocean homes, as were others who have since died. For example, Tilikum, a 32-year-old orca, was captured at the age of 2 by a marine "cowboy." Tilikum wasn't taken from his natural environment because he was injured—instead, he was torn away from his family against his will and confined to a small concrete tank for a hefty profit.
A scientific study by Newcastle University found that dolphins in close proximity to humans experience extreme stress, "preventing them from resting, feeding or nurturing their young." Despite these findings, SeaWorld continues to allow park guests to swim and touch dolphins at its Discovery Cove location in Orlando, Florida.
In 1965, the first-ever orca show was performed by a female orca named Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego. During Shamu's capture, her mother was shot with a harpoon and killed before the young orca's very eyes by a marine "cowboy" named Ted Griffin. Griffin's partner, Don Goldsberry, later worked for SeaWorld and was assigned to bring orcas into the park. He continued kidnapping and slaughtering orcas, and at one point, he hired divers to slit open the bellies of four orcas, fill them with rocks, put anchors around their tails, and sink them to the bottom of the ocean so that their deaths would not be discovered.
In nature, orcas choose their own mates. But at SeaWorld, orcas are forced to breed on a regular basis. Male orcas are trained to float on their backs, and their trainers masturbate them to collect their sperm. Females are artificially inseminated and forced to breed at a much younger age than they would in nature. Katina was forced to breed when she was only 9 years old (at least five years earlier than she would have naturally bred in the wild). Now she is used as a virtual breeding machine and is even being inbred with her own sons.
SeaWorld's corporate incident log contains reports of more than 100 incidents of orca aggression at its parks, often resulting in injuries to humans and even causing one death by extensive internal bleeding.
Following a 2006 attack by an orca on a trainer at SeaWorld in San Diego, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health concluded that it was "only a matter of time" before someone was killed while interacting with the orcas. A further investigation into these attacks could have prevented injuries and deaths.
Orcas in the wild have an average life expectancy of 30 to 50 years—their estimated maximum life span is 60 to 70 years for males and 80 to more than 100 for females. The median age of orcas in captivity is only 9.
In captivity, all male orcas have collapsed dorsal fins as adults, which is a sign of an unhealthy orca. SeaWorld claims that this condition is common and natural for all orcas. However, collapsed dorsal fins are caused by the unnatural environment of captivity and are rarely seen in the wild. Only 1 to 5 percent of male orcas in some populations (and none in others) have fully collapsed dorsal fins.
Contrary to popular belief, trainers often have no formal education in marine biology. Their main purpose is to entertain and put on a "good" show for visitors, not educate people about the intelligence, social nature, or natural families, foraging behavior, and habitats of the animals held at SeaWorld.
On January 11, 2012, the USDA issued an official warning to SeaWorld San Antonio for its "repeated failure to provide drain covers that are securely fastened in order to minimize the potential risk of animal entrapment"—a violation that resulted in the death of a sea lion.
In March 2013, prompted by PETA's complaint about a child who had been bitten by a dolphin at SeaWorld, the USDA conducted an investigation and cited the marine park for several violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including the use of expired surgical materials, some almost a decade old. The USDA also documented that a dolphin tank and the areas surrounding the orca performance tank were in disrepair and contained cracked and crumbling concrete and rusty beams that could pose a threat to the health and safety of both the animals and workers. The USDA pointed out that the unsafe conditions "might create a health risk if these pieces of concrete fall off into the pool and get ingested, or if they become abrasive" and that they "do not facilitate cleaning and disinfection."
SeaWorld confines whales and dolphins—who often swim up to 100 miles a day in the wild—to tanks that, to them, are the size of a bathtub.
SeaWorld presents itself as a family establishment full of fun "educational" activities. However, these activities harm animals physically and emotionally. SeaWorld has the financial means and ability to create coastal sanctuaries, where the orcas would have a more natural and less stressful life and where they could feel the tides and waves; see, sense, and communicate with their wild relatives and other ocean animals; and engage in other natural behavior that they are now denied. However, the park instead chooses to stick with the same inhumane business model that it has used for 50 years, despite all the violent and deadly incidents and evidence of harm. Please say NO to SeaWorld and its enslavement of animals by refusing to buy a ticket to this abusement park, and ask the marine park to release these animals to sanctuaries.
Background Image Clockwise from Top Left:
Dolphin on left: ©2012 JupiterImages.com, Dolphin bottom right: ©iStockphoto.com/skynesher, Turtle on left: ©iStockphoto.com/richcarey, Net: ©iStockphoto.com/DJClaassen
Other Photos on Page
Kidnapped Silhouette Image: ©2012 JupiterImages.com, No Diving graphic: ©iStockphoto.com/4x6, nickylaatz, Whaling: ©iStockphoto.com/gormvester, Drowning: ©iStockphoto.com/sdourado, Caution: ©iStockphoto.com/Bliznetsov, Help Orcas Illustration: ©iStockphoto.com/XonkArts