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The Issue of Captivity

Pro or Anti?


The issue of keeping cetaceans in captivity and under the care of man has been a controversial practice ever since the first dolphins and whales were taken into aquariums for the ammusement of people. While true the early days of captivity and capturing were not to be smiled upon, we need to focus on what occurs today with these magnificiant animals.


There are many people who are under the impression that orcas and other captive marine mammals are abused behind the show scenes, deprived of their food and fed only when they perform a trick. I am here to finally state that these accusations are NOT true in any way whatsoever.


The training and keeping of captive orcas and dolphins requires alot of skill time and money, while many people say the owners of the aquariums are all greedy and cheap, if this was true, they wouldnt be keeping these animals just becuase of the extreme costs it takes to care for them.


Trainers use a method of training known as "Positive Reinforcement", meaning that a good behavior is rewarded with fish, rubdowns (massages), attention, toys, ice, or even jello, and negative behaviors are simply ignored, true the orca doesnt get a treat for the wrong behavior, but that doesnt mean its never fed, this is only used during the training sessions. Once a negative behavior is performed, the trainer might step back, wait a few minutes, and hope that the animal will catch on and realize that it's previous behaviour may not have satisfied its caretaker, thus building the encouragement required to prevent the negative behavior from happening again. The entire negative behavior is focused on in a positive manner, thus hoping in the future that that negative action, may likely not ever occur again. Despite not getting food for a negative behavior, the orcas, dolphins, seals and sealions are all still fed daily requirements of high quality fish. Many of us use the same method of training on our house hold pets, for instance, you tell your dog to sit, he sits, you give him love & attention, and or a bone, if he doesnt sit, you dont reward him, for fear of him thinking that the negative behavior is a good thing. But you still feed him everyday dont you?


Heres another issue that gets on many pro-cap's nerves. Activists claiming orcas are abused! What? first off honestly, how do you abuse a whale, a killer whale much less, the top predator of the ocean who could tear you in half with one snap of its jaws. Do you think when the show is over and the park closes, the trainers start beating on the orcas? NO, they are not abused in any way, all these animals are literally treated like royalty. Given so much love and attention that you wouldnt believe! For instance, to prevent "whale boredness", trainers come up with a variety of games and activities for the animals to keep them happy and occupied, such as playing fetch, practicing new behaviors, giving them balls and rings and ropes to play around with, heck, they even get frozen ice and jelly at sometimes. Now tell me, do you see this as being "abusive" if you do, then maybe you should just leave and sit in a corner.

-Juvenile orca with his "waffle"


Besides, as stated before by numerous people, if these animals were sad, bored, ill and depressed, they wouldnt be the cheery, and highly social and interactive animals that they are!

-As you can see, an extremely abused, depressed, and neglected animal.. Yea right..



It is true that captivity does have its downsides, but then again doesnt everything? For years, the lifespan of a captive orca has been greatly reduced, less than those of their wild cousins. And there is no lying that many orcas have lost their lives in the past. But we cannot reconcile the wrong-doings of the past, and apply them to what is happening today, that was then and this was now, and with technology and skilled vetrinarian care becoming more advanced, captive orcas are living longer in captivity. In fact, 30-40 years ago, captive orcas rarely made it to 10 years old. Today, they are living into their 20s, 30s, and a few even in their 40s!


Another concern is tankmates. Many claim that orcas are held solitary and forced to be away from their tankmates. Honestly where does people come up with this stuff. Sure if orcas become aggressive with eachother they may be temporarily seperated, but not permanently, give or take certain individuals with other certain individuals. Orcas are rarely alone in captivity, many times tank access is open to numerous pools so that they are able to swim freely with their other tankmates, then again at other time the orcas are assigned to different groups. This doesnt mean their unhappy, the large bulls who take up a lot of room honestly probably enjoy their space, and time away from the others, no one can know but the animals themselves.

Shouka, Freya and Valentin (left to right)-Marineland Antibes Gang Performing



Again despite what many activists say, captivity has helped us a great deal in learning about these magnificiant animals, things we would have never known in the wild. Roughly 40+ years ago, the killer whale was revered as a predator, that would kill anything or anyone that it saw, in fact, US navy handbooks said strictly in them that getting caught in the water with these things would surely have you end up dead. Now if Orcas had never been taken into marine parks, we would still see them like this to this day. That and how many people actually get to go see the ocean, and see the whales? Few, but marineparks allow up close and personal looks and experiences with these animals, see things they would never have seen before. The captive population of cetaceans act as ambassadors to their wild cousins.



Even despite what is stated in these paragraphs, people still think the captive industry is a cruel industry, (which is by no means true). They want these animals to be free. Well truth is, freeing a human dependant orca is literally setting their funeral date. Releasing them, and thus forcing them to avoid the human contact they had grown to love and rely on is in itself cruel. That and there are numerous claims, that captivity weakens the orca's immune system. Thus if they are released, they wouldnt be able to fend off the diseases in the wild. A prime example of all of this is Keiko, the famed orca from the Free Willy movies. After the first movie was made, activists and protesters pushed for his removal from his tank in Mexico, to be released back to his native waters off of the Icelandic coast. Keiko was sent to an aquarium in Oregon to be rehabilitated and prepped for a possible release. When vets claimed he was in top condition, he was sent to a seapen in Iceland. Taught how to catch his own fish. He even interacted with a few wild pods. But all the while, he would continue to seek out humans for comfort and attention, proving that no captive animal can be turned wild again, but despite this, they continued to push him, and push him. When one day, his radio collar fell off. He was later found to have traveled over 800 miles, had lost much weight, and seemed lethargic. He followed a Norweigan fishing boat into port, where he would let the children ride on his back. This again should have been proof enough, but nope, he was continously pushed, until 15 months after his released, he succombed to pneumonia, and died.

-Keiko interacts with a young boy


Everyone thought his release was necessary and thats what Keiko wanted, when in reality, NO ONE KNOWS WHAT ANY CAPTIVE ANIMAL IS THINKING BUT THEMSELVES. Keiko proved he loved humans, but it was the publics own personal feelings that eventually got Keiko released. We can make educated guesses by the behaviors of these animals onto what they are thinking, such as when a dog wags its tail its happy, or when a cat hisses its angry, but thoughts as complex as "i dont like being in captivity and i want to be released back into the ocean" can not be known because truthfully, its the animals brains thinking it, not ours, but that doesnt stop people from cramming their words down these animals mouths, they think they know whats best for the animal, when reality its them proving they know what they want in the event they were that animal


Depite the unfortunate loss of Keiko, activists continue to push for the release of certain captive orcas. Among them are Lolita, and Corky. Lolita is the lone orca currently being held at the Miami Seaquarium, she has been there for 38 years, and her tank is tiny. Yet she is still loved deeply and cared for by her trainers. People only see the tank, and think "oh she must be sad and wants to go home". Lolita is perhaps one of the worst candidates for a release, having been in captivity as long as she has, she has developed such strong bonds with her trainers that taking them away from her is cruel, that and her home waters in the Pacific Northwest are literally a sewer, and her having been in captivity so long probably wouldnt be able to fight off the diseases found there thus she should remain where she is, after all, even though her tank is small, it doesnt mean shes unhappy. The other orca, a female by the name of Corky 2, currently residing at Seaworld San Diego, and get this: she is blind in one eye, and is on medications for liver, kidney, and bladder problems. Oh sure she will survive in the wild. That medical issue must have just crossed their mind. She is in the same position as Lolita, and yet is very content in her current home, she has tankmates to bond with and is a very successful adoptive mother to calves whose mothers have either died or rejected them. Releasing these 2, or any other captive orca thats been in captivity as long, even shorter, is a death sentence.

 Why take away something so wonderful?



  For the sake of ourselves?



So now you know, the truth about the captive industry, it is not this death sentance all the activists and protesters want you to think about. It is a remarkable bond, between man and creature, something that cannot be broken, that is unless we step into the matter, and force our opinions in.