(NEW! Video on my Youtube channel showcasing the differences between captive and wild orcas. Don’t miss it!) I’m going to start this post by addressing an observation of mine regarding the cetacean captivity rumor mill. One great journalist who tends to keep a close eye on the marine mammal industry is Tim Zimmermann. Awhile back he reported that Kohana at Loro Parque was pregnant, and even showed pictures of her “baby bump.” Immediately, captivity supporters began to pass it off as being simply a rumor. They claimed that SeaWorld would never breed her so irresponsibly. They said that the pictures were no indication of pregnancy, that in fact, Kohana has always been a little pudgy. And Tim Zimmermann was condemned as being an
unreliable source. But in the past couple of weeks, Loro Parque has confirmed Kohana’s pregnancy and announced that she is due at the end of this year. For the longest time, SeaWorld supporters didn’t want to believe Kohana was pregnant and so denied it as long as possible.
The same thing happened with Keet’s transfer. Once again, Tim Zimmermann wrote an article claiming that Keet was going to be transferred from Texas to California…it would be his 5th transfer! Once again, captivity supporters responded by passing it off as a rumor, saying that Mr. Zimmermann is unreliable - even claiming that the trainers had publically denied the transfer would happen. But today, Keet was indeed transferred. For what purpose? According to SeaWorld it was: “…to enhance the groupings of the killer whale family.” Almost everyone knows that orcas have very tight family bonds. How is dropping Keet into a strange social situation supposed to “enhance” groupings between the whales? Does SeaWorld truly expect to fool people in this way?
Alright, and now to the purpose of this post:
How does captivity benefit the animals? If you were to ask this question to captivity supporters, you would likely get at least one of 3 various answers:
Are people truly more educated when they leave places like SeaWorld? There is no evidence out there to indicate that this is the case. Seeing cetaceans in captivity is not a prerequisite for appreciating or understanding their species. In fact, picking up a dolphins and whalesbook in the children’s section of the library is probably more educational than
going to a marine park show. To quote a great statement from a Smithsonian Handbook to Whales and Dolphins I recently read:
“If there is any educational element [to marine parks] it merely pays lip service to the concept of an ‘informative commentary.’ Choreographed shows are contentious and perpetuate our domineering and manipulative attitude toward nature.”
If there is aneducational aspect of marine parks, it may be found in a commentary usually at the beginning of the shows. The trainers may tell the audience how large the animals are, how much they eat, how fast they can swim, etc. Nothing that cannot be
found elsewhere. In fact, the other places that one may become educated about cetaceans, in documentaries, books, online research, etc. will give much more information than can be found in one of these “informative commentaries.” (For more on this point read my blog post: “The Message Behind the Dolphin Show.” )
Do marine parks conserve the species that they are holding captive? Obviously simply keeping cetaceans in captivity doesn’t do a thing for conservation. The question is: how much is this organization doing to urge people to conserve the planet, or to directly aid in conservation efforts? The answer in regards to marine parks is usually, nothing. While there are many parks around the world that pay top dollar to care for the animals – they are a minority. Most facilities in the industry are not the SeaWorlds and the Loro Parques that we are so used to seeing. Most of them are not like these other parks that push the conservation facade. The fact of the matter is that people leave places like SeaWorld wanting to be dolphin trainers – not wanting a career that seeks to learn how to conserve the species. SeaWorld may encourage people to recycle, or tell the audience about global warming…but this is of no practical benefit for the animals. (For more information check out my blog post “SeaWorld and Conservation”)
It’s a Trade-Off
There are a few captivity supporters who may argue that captivity is a simple trade off. Basically, the animals give up their freedom and any control over their own lives to live in the lap of luxury – being hand fed dead fish and gaining protection from predators. A good way to view this argument is to consider an analogy like human imprisonment. People who
are in prison give up their freedom and in turn they don’t have to worry about bills, work, buying food, etc. Obviously as we know, that’s not a very fair trade-off for humans, nor for cetaceans.
Now that I’ve tackled a few arguments regarding the benefits of captivity…can any of you determine anything regarding captivity that benefits the animals? Anything at all?
If you have any further thoughts on the matter, let me know in the comments, or let me know if you liked this article by voting or following me. If you have an article that you would like to see in the future, be sure to give me feedback. Thanks for reading!