Captive orcas have been involved in the deaths of four individuals in the last 50 years and hundreds of reported attacks. With the release of the new film “Blackfish”, the publication of “Death at SeaWorld”, and increasing media coverage on SeaWorld’s safety issues, this is no secret. Those who oppose captivity often note that there has never been any orca attacks on humans in the wild. In response, captivity supporters may bring up a few instances of “wild orca attacks” in an attempt to make the horrendously long list of attacks by captive orcas look a little better…
- In the early 1900’s, a group of men and sled dogs on an expedition in Antarctica, were standing on an ice floe. According to witnesses, a pod of orcas tried to tip the expedition off of the ice floe because they were curious about the dog’s barking and probably mistook them for a family of seals. Nobody was harmed.
- In 2011, a film crew for a nature television show filmed a pod of orcas attempting to wash crew members off their ship in the same way that they would hunt sea lions. This led the crew to believe that these otherwise “tolerant” orcas, may have mistaken them for prey. Nobody was injured.
- In 2005, a boy was swimming and was bumped by a wild orca who probably thought he was a sea lion, which frequent the area. No injury occurred.
- In the 1970’s a surfer reported that he was bitten by a wild orca and required 100 stitches. This is the only recorded instance of a wild orca doing any harm to a human.
- In the 1970’s a wooden boat was reportedly attacked and sank by a pod of orcas. The crew escaped on an inflatable boat. Nobody was harmed.
I hate to say it, but in their desperation, some captivity supporters seem to have reached a new low. To label these events as “attacks” is nothing more than grasping at straws, and comparing them to the long list of attacks and deaths attributed to captive orcas is indefensible. Even if these were true attacks resulting in injury, this little list of recorded incidents (which goes all the way back to 1910!) just doesn’t hold a candle to the last 50 years of orca captivity.
Similarly, some captivity supporters may argue that elephants or other exotic animals kept in captivity, are just as dangerous as captive orcas. It’s important to remember that most exotic animals who attack their handlers are in abusive situations; whether it is being beaten at the circus, or being confined to a small pen in somebody’s backyard, there is always some kind of trigger behind the animal’s behavior (especially in regards to extremely intelligent animals such as elephants and cetaceans). This calls into question the aggressive behavior of captive orcas, and the keeping of any exotic animal as pets or for entertainment.