Last Orca Born at Sea World Texas
Orcas belong in the ocean
Sea World, Texas, has announced that an Orca calf was born on April 19 will be the last one at their facility. The public has learned a great deal since the first Orca or Killer Whale was captured alive and displayed at an aquarium and the tide of opinion has turned against the capture and breeding of the animals.
Mortality rates are higher in Orcas that are confined and kept away from their family groups. Sea World has had 43 pregnancies in its captive Orcas. Half of those pregnancies ended in miscarriages or early death of the youngsters.
In the wild, Orcas live in family groups led by a matriarch. Males can live as long as 60 years and females as long as 90. They have complex communications and are judged to be intelligent. They have large brains and can “speak” in several whale dialects. Younger whales in the pod learn from the older members.
There are also three distinct groups of Orcas. One group lives in the open ocean and hunts sharks; one hunts mammals along the coastline; one hunts fish. If a mammal hunting whale is plunked into a concrete tank and fed fish, it is quickly at a disadvantage.
The first captive killer whale was in the Vancouver, Canada, aquarium. At that time, little was known about these creatures and they were believed to be dangerous hunters. It was open season all year long. Then a wounded whale was captured. It lived for only a few months. After that, other aquaria clamoured to acquire one.
1965 saw a bull whale captured. Those involved were surprised to note that a large group of whales stayed with the prisoner as long as they could. At the time, no one knew that they lived in family groups and developed strong bonds.
To take such animals from their ocean homes and put them in a tank to perform tricks for food can be compared to aliens whisking a family member away to another planet to live alone in a tiny, barren room.
Vancouver Aquarium no longer has captive Orcas. They do maintain a robust research programme. There is a long way to go until amusement parks no longer enslave these intelligent animals. Currently 61 are still in concrete tubs. The hot, new markets are in Russia and China where increasing leisure and incomes are fueling demand. If you get a chance to see an Orca at an aquarium/amusement park, turn it down. If you want to see one or more of these beautiful creatures, take a whale watching trip