On Saturday, January 8th anywhere between thirty and fifty protestors stood outside the gates of SeaWorld’s Orlando, Florida entertainment park. Across the country a similar and simultaneous event was under place with activists echoing the same message in front of SeaWorld in San Diego, California.
Both groups carried signs calling for a boycott of the entertainment park’s three locations and for the end of keeping Killer Whales and dolphins in captivity completely, citing that 46 Orcas and an unknown number of dolphins had died while in the hands of SeaWorld staff since the franchise was forced to keep records of all births and deaths. The records, however, don’t include miscarriages suffered by their highly publicized breeding program. The program was made infamous by the death of Taima in early June of 2010 during a miscarriage of her 4th pregnancy. And by rocker Tommy Lee in a very public letter voicing his concern over Tilikum being used solely as a sperm bank and how the massive bull Orca was housed in isolation ever since his involvement in the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau nearly a year ago.
“We arranged a national protest of SeaWorld to create awareness of Orcas being held and born into captivity by SeaWorld. These animals don’t belong in tanks for our entertainment.” Says Chris Lagergren, the organizer of the Orlando demonstration which was ironically held only three days after the park announced the name of a calf born this past October just days after the death of Kalina and, a month after the death of Sumar, which brought SeaWorld’s death toll to four animals out of twenty-two held by the company in 2010. “Orcas in captivity have little to no chance of ever reaching their natural life expectancy and in fact they usually die before reaching half the age they would in the wild.” Lagergren continued., a fact that many, if not all, marine biologists echo as a concern against keeping these massive and highly intelligent creatures captive.
But what little Makaio couldn’t possibly know is that the pressure is mounting steadily on the shoulders of SeaWorld and other parks to discontinue their captive breeding program and phase out the use and captivity of Killer Whales altogether. “Captivity kills, pure and simple. If you look back they used to claim only the wild caught whales died young, but now we’re seeing captive bred, born, and raised individuals like Sumar die at the age of twelve. In the wild these animals commonly live between sixty and one-hundred years of age, and the hundred year old is showing no signs of slowing down.” Samantha Lloyd, a representative of Triton Marine Conservation said in reference to the July death of Sumar just two months after his mother, Taima at SeaWorld San Deigo and the life of highly researched and documented Pudget Sound Southern Resident whale J2, affectionately known to researchers as “Granny”.
Marine biologists and activists alike claim that performing, cramped quarters, and noise pollution caused by rock music used during performances along with screaming audiences and filtration system noises continuously stress the acoustically sensitive animals and promote compromised immune systems and greatly elevated mortality rates. The vast majority of the deceased animals passed from causes such as complications due to gestation, starvation after breaking their teeth off on metal separation gates, injuries due to fighting or collisions while performing, wide-spread infections, blood poisoning, renal failure, and more. None of the whales have died of old age.
But SeaWorld claims a message of education and conservation as their reason for breeding and housing Orcas and other marine mammals.
“The fact is that SeaWorld continues to breed these animals into captivity to ensure that they have an on going supply, not because of conservation efforts, but to feed their corporate profits and green.” Lagergren explains going on to say; “What they’d love for us to forget is that in the 1960s and 1970s they were responsible for nearly wiping out the population of Orcas off the coast of Washington State and British Columbia and when they were chased away from there after attempting to cover up the drowning deaths of at least thirteen whales, they ran to Iceland, a pro-whaling nation, to continue harvesting live animals well into the eighties without the crutch of having to report deaths or what the industry refers to as ‘by-catch’. They’ve never released a whale back into those crippled populations and they don’t promote natural behaviors such as foraging skills. Their idea of conservation is like cutting down thousands of trees for lumber yards but calling them Environmental Awareness Centers and not planting seedlings to replenish what was lost. It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t work.”
The merits of the claim of conservation and education by SeaWorld and other parks housing whales and dolphins have been discredited even further by the statement of Jacques Cousteau, a man that the scientific world widely regards as the greatest expert on our oceans and life within them saying “There is about as much educational benefit to be gained in studying whales and dolphins in captivity as there would be studying man kind by only observing prisoners held in solitary confinement.”
Chris Lagergren further indicated that the efforts of activists are planned to be continued against SeaWorld and other parks until they find different wants to sustain their revenue without the exploitation of live dolphins and whales. They have another event planned for July 3rd, 2011 which includes all three SeaWorld park locations in Orlando, San Antonio, and San Diego.
SeaWorld representatives denied comment.