There’s been a lot of talk about SeaWorld’s treatment of their animals for quite a few years. Most recently, SeaWorld stated that they plan to phase out their circus styled orca shows by 2016.
Although, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be an orca attraction. The California Coastal Commission approved a $100 million expansion on the whales’ tanks. This is a definite step in the right direction, and yet very miniscule in terms of problems with their animals’ physical health and well being.
Many protesters feared that this expansion harbored an underlying intent to increase breeding. Fortunately, the investment is under a condition that would prohibit captive breeding, artificial insemination and the sale, trade or transfer of any animal in captivity.
While SeaWorld San Diego President John Reilly did argue that “Breeding is a natural, fundamental and important part of an animal’s life and depriving a social animal of the right to reproduce is inhumane,” this doesn’t excuse their poor breeding practices.
The previous quote is ironic in the sense that they deny these whales a natural breeding process through artificial insemination. The list of poor breeding practices go on from incest to high mortality rates including stillbirths, miscarriages and infancy death, breeders’ ignorance towards breeding orcas that have healthy genetics and many more.
At SeaWorld, orcas are typically bred at an early age, most under the age of 10, despite studies suggesting that female orcas in the wild breed at average of 15 years old.
On top of that, a majority of calves are separated from their mothers at anywhere from 10 months to 12 years of age. In the wild, it’s not uncommon for a mother and calf to stay together for their lifetime.
While SeaWorld has contributed a wealth of information about orca whales, it’s just simply not worth the repercussions on the whales. All captive male orcas in SeaWorld have collapsed dorsal fins, while less than 1 percent of the wild orca population suffers from this impairment. The cause is likely due to lack of space and poor diet.
SeaWorld is also notorious for lying and twisting statistics in their favor. They claim that the average life expectancy of orcas in the wild is 25 to 35 years. That is an extreme understatement considering the true life expectancy for males is on average 30 years, while they can live up to 60 years. Females live on average of 50 years, but can live as long as 100 years.
It is truly a distasteful sight when a living creature’s entire existence is for the sole purpose of petty human entertainment. Zoos are in no way necessary in order to witness exotic animals up close. I would much rather visit a sanctuary that allows tours. At least that way one can learn about the animals they wish to gawk at without forcing the animals into highly unnatural circumstances.
This alternative supports reserves that are focused on protecting and aiding a given species. That being said, I don’t believe that zoos shouldn’t exist. There are plenty of exotic species that fare just fine in captivity, but there are many species that have no place in a zoo.
The push to expand SeaWorld’s 11 captive orcas enclosure and prohibition on forthcoming breeding is a good place to start in the elimination of their mistreatment. The way these whales are presented to the public is purely from an entertainment and profit standpoint and in no way goes hand in hand with conservation.