The birth of Trua in 2005 meant that SeaWorld’s captive orca collection now numbered 24 specimens. Recognizing the need for crowd control in their tanks, SeaWorld entered into a financial agreement with an amusement park in Spain called Loro Parque. The Spanish park would build a new orca pool and SeaWorld would send them their “excess orcas” on breeding loan. The loan would last twenty-five years with an option to renew every decade.
The following year, SeaWorld took four young orcas from their families, and flew them halfway around the word to Spain. There, they were placed in a tank to breed with each other and create their own society. Oddly enough, both of the females sent to Spain to breed are related to the males! Now, seven years later, the consequences of this foolish decision are being reaped: a hostile social structure resulting in injuries and gruesome scarring of the whales, unpredictable and stressed out animals who attack and even kill their trainers, and inbreeding.
Captivity supporters agree that the conditions at Loro Parque are far from ideal, but they deny that SeaWorld is in any way responsible. “It’s not seaworld’s fault shitty places like Loro Parque exist!” One captivity supporter writes. The fact that SeaWorld’s initial decision to send these whales to Spain has created all of these problems, seems to escape them.
In reality, SeaWorld not only arranged the transfer of the whales, but is fully aware of what goes on at Loro Parque and is and actively involved in the care and training of their animals there. Management has stressed that they are supervising the orca’s care in Spain. Former Curator of Animal Training, Julie Scardina, claimed that the orcas on loan “are monitored and supervised carefully.” Brad Andrews, director of zoological operations corroborated this, saying: “We’ve been providing technical expertise [to Loro Parque], not only on the habitat requirements but also on the care and training of killer whales.”
SeaWorld is a consistent presence at Loro Parque and all important matters related to breeding, medications, housing of the whales, etc. would go through them first. They have staff and trainers on-site, management pops in every so often for “spot-checks” to make sure everything is going smoothly, and they even have videos set up at Loro Parque which feed back to the United States so that everything is monitored. It seems that SeaWorld is ultimately responsible for most everything that happens and has happened to the whales at Loro Parque.
If something is not running smoothly with the whales in Spain, as has often been the case, SeaWorld either has a hand in it or has chosen to do nothing about it. For instance, when trainers saw that one of the whales was being bullied incessantly, they urged SeaWorld to take him back to the United States. Unfortunately, SeaWorld declined. Their attitude about the poor conditions at Loro Parque has been flippant to say the least. They have praised the Spanish park as a facility: “We’ve known them for a long time, and they do an excellent job,” said SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs. When a former employee of Loro Parque contacted SeaWorld with her concerns, she was sent a letter in return in which SeaWorld denied any serious problems in Spain.
There are currently six whales at Loro Parque, including the four original whales, a young inbred calf named Adan and the “rescued” young female named Morgan. It was announced yesterday that the second inbred calf, Vicky, had passed away suddenly at only ten months old. What is going on at Loro Parque is a disgrace that has resulted from a foolish decision by SeaWorld. If you want to learn more read “Death at Seaworld” by David Kirby or “Blood in the Water” by Tim Zimmerman.