Like many animals in captivity, orcas and dolphins have been known to exhibit stereotypy, or abnormal, stereotypical behavior. This behavior is a repetitive habit that has no actual goal or function. Some examples of stereotypy include: vomiting, head bobbing, pacing/circling, comotose-like states, self mutilation, biting on gates and bars, and tongue playing. Most of these behaviors can be seen at Seaworld behind the observation glass, and most Seaworld fans and supporters will obliviously watch, thinking that the behavior is “cute” or that the whales are playing and having fun.
Many of the more unnatural behaviors the animals are taught to do on command, become habits by cetaceans, and may lead to dangerous situations. The most common form of this is
the use of the slideouts. Orcas in captivity slide out and lay there without moving like Kalia is in this video, or this video showing Nakai laying motionless on a slideout for nearly 10 minutes. Orcas have been seen to slide out and thrash violently as seen here. Of course the most common and easy to spot symptom of stereotypy is repetitive behavior. In orcas this is observed in their consistent, repetitive behavior of sliding in and out of the tanks in their free time. Like the whale seen here at Kamogawa Seaworld, or the several orcas in this video who take turns sliding out and laying motionless at Seaworld. Dolphins have also been seen to exhibit this behavior, throwing themselves out of their tanks and sliding down the platforms. This is very dangerous to the animals, guests, and is highly abnormal.
“Recently, she [Orkid] has been sliding out in various slide-out areas on her free time which has resulted in possible dangerous scenarios for guests at the Dine with Shamu area.”- Orkid’s behavior profile
In the wild, this behavior is generally considered neurotic, and dangerous. If cetaceans remain beached for too long, their body weight can crush their internal organs.
issues with these comatose states as well.
“Malia has had 6 instances of abnormal behaviour. The abnormal behaviour ranges from listing to no-movement seizure like states.”- Malia’s behavior profile
Whales sleep at, or near the surface of the water, drifting or “logging.” They do not lay stationary at the bottom of the pool.
Whales and dolphins have been seen “pacing” their tanks, swimming in endless circles as seen here and here . In the wild, these animals swim in straight lines across vast oceans. In tanks, they are reduced to doing laps in their tiny habitats.
When animals are confined in small, under-stimulating environments, they will often begin chewing. Birds will chew their feathers, animals with fur will over-groom themselves, horses chew the sides of their stalls, whales have been known to chew on the steel gates, or even pick paint off the bottom of the pools.
“Tuar, a SeaWorld San Antonio whale, has been observed picking at paint at the bottom of the pools.” Tuar’s behavior profile/Orlando Sentinel
The obsessive chewing is one of the main reasons why captive cetaceans break their teeth and must have the exposed pulp drilled out.
Chewing, pacing, aggression toward each other, trainers, and sexual aggression are all results of the captive cetacean’s repressed energy and repressed true nature, in addition to boredom and lack of stimulation.
To learn more about stereotypy, view videos and pictures of stereotypic behavior, and the scientific explanation for such behavior, visit this site .