Personal

It’s Complicated

“SeaWorld and other aquariums have made millions charging very high rates for people to watch imprisoned animals do tricks. The real majesty of orcas can only be seen in the wild or by learning about their lives from videos, movies and websites.”

I’m guilty. I have been to SeaWorld, twice. Once when I was 6 years old and again when I was 18. When I was 6 and I stepped into that stadium to watch the whale show, I fell in love with the orca. I loved the way they majestically swam and I was mesmerized by their beauty. After that trip, I watched Free Willy non-stop and became a huge fan of whales of all kind. Senior year of high school came around and I went back to Florida for spring break. I was bound and determined to go to SeaWorld again to see the whales. After seeing the show and falling more in love with these beautiful creatures, I happened to ask a worker why their dorsal fin was flopped. I knew it was because of captivity, but I was hoping to get more information than what I found through Google and books. The answer that I received was astounding which made me question my support for this institution. I was told that “… only 2 percent of orcas have fully extended dorsal fins. Many wild orcas have collapsed fins so it is normal and natural for our orcas to have collapsed dorsal fins.”- Dumb SeaWorld Employee.

Really?

To this day, I cringe thinking about the day that I went to SeaWorld and watched beautiful whales do flips and tricks for dead pieces of fish. That was 2010. Five years later, finally, information about the captivity is coming out and the Blackfish era has engaged. I still tear up when watching that documentary because I was one of the tourists that paid to watch a whale and dolphins perform for my enjoyment, when it is a painful experience for them. The guilt that I have for attending those shows is immense.

I have been told that my passion for whales will not save them all. I know that. But I hope that my influence on others will be contagious enough to spread through conversation. It has also come to my attention that we can’t just set every whale free and expect them to live a happy life. There are so many factors that are hurt because of their life in captivity. Did you know that SeaWorld files down every whale’s teeth so they do not bite each other? They are filed down so far that they cannot bite through fish but just gnaw on them like infants with new teeth coming in. If we free a whale into the wild with shaved teeth they will not survive because they cannot fend for themselves or feed themselves. We cannot put a whale back in the ocean near Florida and hope that they make it. This whale must find a pod and connect with that pod to be allowed acceptance. Whales do not leave their pod unless forced upon by humans. Whales are not accepting creatures that will let anyone in their family. The whale that was just released will die alone because it cannot eat food because of its filed teeth and it cannot hunt or find the affection that it needs. When we take a whale from the wild, we take them from their family. We strip them from that connection. Many mothers refuse to leave the spot where their calf was taken. I’ll let that sink in. Mothers who have their calves taken away from them refuse to leave that spot. They starve. They get depressed and they die.

Whales that are taken from the wild and put into captivity go into a mental psychosis that is harmful to their mental stability. Just like humans. If we were taken away from our family and were not allowed to see them again we would go into a mental psychosis too. There have been countless whales that have committed suicide at these large aquariums. After the biopsy is complete, more often than not, the same diagnosis comes back. Whales have an extra lobe in their brain that is for feelings and expression. Whales that commit suicide show brain deterioration in that lobe or lack of activity in the lobe. Interesting. Whales that have committed suicide and killed themselves from the gates or by brutality have all had similar brain characteristics.

So what can we do? We can’t just put a whale back in the ocean and hope for the best. What could work, and the only positive outcome that I could foresee, is to allow the orcas to live together in a sanctuary that is set up in an ocean bay area where the whales get fed and cared for. This way they have the room needed to swim and they can still get the assistance that is needed to help them survive.

My passion for whales of all kinds is more than most can handle. On a recent trip to Mexico, we went out watching whale watching because humpbacks were in the bay area. The rush that I felt while watching the massive creatures breach from the ocean was the same felling I had at SeaWorld. I was speechless and just watched in awe. This is where we should enjoy these creatures, and many other wild animals, in their wild habitat where they are free and natural.

I asked a SeaWorld worker how long the whales lived. She told me 25-30 years is the average life span of all orcas, wild and captive. False. The average orca lives to 89 years in the wild. Stop lying SeaWorld.

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