Whales in Captivity

Killer Whales Deserve Freedom Kimberly Hall COM 155 November 27, 2011 Mara Galvez Killer Whales Deserve Freedom Orcas are complex social creatures deserving freedom and respect, not captivity in theme parks under the guise of public education and entertainment. Aquarium staffs say captive whales are priceless educational tools. However, people can educate their children by bringing them to the wild instead of bringing the wild to them at the expense of the Orcas health and well-being. The price of a family admission ticket is what continues to drive this cruel spectacle,” according to Michael O’ Sullivan, the Executive Director of The Humane Society of Canada (Whales in Captivity, 2010, Para. 3). Orcas suffer in many ways in captivity, and are subject to many stressful situations they would never encounter in the wild. Captivity changes not only their mental state but also their physical appearance. One of the most salient physical effects of captivity is dorsal fin disfiguration.
In the captive population, almost every male has a flopped dorsal fin, and most females have at least some bend to their dorsal. In the wild, male dorsal fins can exceed heights of six feet straight up. The best theory is that the dorsal fin flops from the force of gravity. Dorsal fins are made of cartilage, not bone. Orcas are one of the fastest mammals in the sea; they can reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour. Orcas can dive underwater to depths of close to 200 feet. When diving, the animal’s heart rate slows from 60 beats per minute to 30 beats per minute.
Meanwhile, oxygen-carrying blood diverts away from the extremities, and then navigates toward the heart, lungs, and brain, where there is more oxygen needed. These biological changes permit the animal to conserve oxygen while submerged for longer periods of time (About Orcas – Physical Characteristics, 2005). In the wild Orcas have support from the water, keeping their dorsal erect. In captivity, Orcas are at the surface constantly for feeding, training, and petting purposes, and swim only in circles so there is very little dorsal support, thus causing the dorsal to flop [ (Bohn, 2011) ].

Orcas in captivity suffer from more than just physical imperfections. Dosed with drugs to help the killer whales deal with stress, they suffer terribly in marine parks. Animals and humans share the same immune system. Just as stress reduces our immune system, it does the same to the killer whale. Therefore, stress has been an indirect cause of death in captive killer whales. Killer whales in captivity experiencing stress tend to beat their head against the walls of their tanks until it bleeds. At least three captive whales have killed themselves with this repetitive motion brought on by stress.
Have you ever heard of this happening in the wild? Not only does it not happen, an Orca in the wild would never bring bodily harm upon itself. Denial of their right to live in their true habitat where they belong causes the killer whales much stress, frustration, anxiety, and sadly aggression. In the wild Orcas, do not attack humans as they have in marine parks. As Barry (2010, Para, 12) explained, “Isolation among marine animals is highly stressful, which leads to abnormal behavior. ” Marine parks such as Sea World have what they call petting pods, where the children can pet and feed the Orcas.
Orcas are given tranquilizers to help them deal with the stress and anxiety of human contact. People might not be so eager to pet these wild mammals if they knew everything the Orca had to go through just so they could pet them for a minute or two. (Smith, 2010) Along with the stress of living in a marine park, Orcas suffer extreme stress being away from their family members. In the wild Orcas travel with their family (pods) that range anywhere from five to 25 family members (Orcas). Orcas families are very close knit. They mostly travel in pods that include their parents, grandparents, children, etc.
Taking the Orca away from their family causes them much stress, anxiety, and depression. In the wild, their offspring stay with them and travel with them. Orcas, related by blood, remain together for the duration of their lives. In captivity, the aquarium staff removes their offspring (calves) from them at a very young age. For Orcas, known to be the one mammal that is closest to the human race as far as family, feelings, and social behaviors, it would be equivalent to a human being removed from their family to never see them again, to never speak to them again. Smith, 2010) In the wild, Orcas have constant communication with their pods (family). To communicate with their pods (family) in the wild Orcas use echolocation. Mandell (2010) describes echolocation as, “The process of moving air between the sinuses in their heads to make high-pitched sound (p. 2). The vibrations travel underwater until they encounter objects and then rebound back creating audible tones the whales use for navigation. Their sound waves go so far that they never come back to the Orca who sent it. What comes back is the voice (sound waves) of another Orca (family member).
In captivity, these high-pitched sounds can only travel to the wall of the tank and bounce back. Thus, causing the sound (the Orcas own voice) to bounce back and forth repeatedly which in time can drive a killer whale insane. It would be equivalent to keeping a human in a room, in solitary, who is constantly hearing voices. Being isolated in a small tank (approximately the size of two Orcas), splashing spectators with your tail, and doing tricks several times a day for years would make any species go crazy. I agree that watching magnificent Orcas performing tricks with a human trainer is not educational.
Unfortunately, watching one snap and kill a trainer is educational, but only if the lesson changes the minds and actions of its captors. Orcas are complex social creatures deserving of freedom and respect. There are currently 42 killer whales in captivity worldwide. Out of the 194 killer whales in captivity since 1964, two-thirds died within 10 years, and less than 30 survived longer than 20 years in captivity [ (Mandell, 2010) ]. To keep them in captivity disguised under education and entertainment is nothing more than cruel and unusual treatment.
They suffer physically, socially and mentally. Captivity is more detrimental to the welfare of the Orca than the wild could ever be. Watching Orcas in their natural habitat is far more educational than watching them perform tricks in a marine park. [ (Santich, 2010) ] OR [ (Orlando, 2011) ] YOU DECIDE References About Orcas – Physical Characteristics. (2005). Retrieved December 7, 2011, from orca-zone: http://www. orca-zone. com/aboutorcas/index. html Barry, J. (2010, August 26). Killer is prized, feared, stressed: Life won’t change much for Tilikum, the orca that drowned a trainer at Seaworld.
St Petersburg Times . St Petersburg, FL, United States. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com. ezproxy. apollolibrary. com/docview/264384772/1338068E48F8B67489/1? accountid=35812 Bohn, G. (2011, November 28). Killer whales and captivity; What threat, if any, does life in the aquarium bubble pose to the health of these giant sea mammals. The Edmonton Journal . Edmonton, Alta, Canada. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com. ezproxy. apollolibrary. com/docview/251763683/133805C5287EFA914D/1? accountid=35812 Mandell, M. (2010, June 29).
Short history on killer whales. Bergen County, N. J, United States. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/365980652? accountid=35812 Orlando, S. W. Orca Collapsed Dorsal Fin. (picture). Captive orcas. Sea World Orlando, Orlando. Retrieved from http://pediaview. com/openpedia/Captive_orcas Santich, K. Free Willy? Conservationists say this is how orcas should live — in the wild. SeaWorld tragedy — a reminder of why orcas should swim free? Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. (picture) Retrieved from http://blogs. orlandosentinel. om/changetheworld/2010/02/a-tragic-reminder-of-why-killer-whales-should-not-live-at-marine-parks. html/orcinus_orca_5 Smith, J. (2010, June 11). Captive Killer Whales. The Ecologist . United Kingdom. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com. ezproxy. apollolibrary. com/docview/234920905/1338063BFFA6E62ABF8/1? accountid=35812 Whales in Captivity – Spectacularly Cruel – says Humane Society of Canada. (2010, July 1). The Canada Newswire . Ottawa, British Columbia, Canada. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com. ezproxy. apollolibrary. com/docview/455947023/133806FC22464623DC8/6? accountid=35812

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