The stress of orca captivity
Two former Sea World animals trainers with more than 12 years combined experience have released a report documenting how social and health issues plague captive orcas, the largest member of the dolphin family. Ex-trainers John Jett and Jeff Ventre (now a professor and doctor respectively) also note that it’s likely that the intense confinement and behavioural deprivation led to the death of Dawn Brancheau, who was killed by a frustrated young male orca in 2010.
The report states “In the wild orcas typically spend their entire lives within tight family groupings”. Life after capture is bleak and the report notes; “Orcas captured from the wild have been traumatically extracted from the security, comfort and mentoring which these groupings provide…confined to small, acoustically-dead, concrete enclosures where they must live in extremely close proximity to other whales with which they often share no ancestral, cultural or communication similarities. The resultant infighting amongst captive orcas is exacerbated by virtue of having no place to run.”
According to the report’s authors not only is aggression towards humans commonplace among captive orca, but infighting between whales who have “no place to run”, in one instance led to a female orca (captive for 11.9 years!) severing an artery in her upper jaw in a display of dominance over Corky, another wild-caught orca. Over the next 45 minutes, she slowly bled out, spouting blood from her blowhole until she died. See this video for Corky’s story.
This new report once again leaves us asking how many more dolphins will be torn from their families and be denied the chance to choose a mate or roam the vast oceans before we this exploitation ends? There can be no justification for using these animals in circus-style performances. Dolphins, like all other wild animals, should be admired for their amazing natural attributes and protected in the wild, where they belong.