Born to be Wild
Dolphins and Whales are sentient, highly intelligent mammals - just like us. We know they have feelings, the ability to learn and live in family groups within communities known as pods. They have nursery groups to teach their young, utilising play as a learning tool - again, just like us. But that’s where the similarity ends. You see, some people believe it is good to take dolphins and whales from their family groups, keep them in tiny tanks and ‘train’ them to do ‘tricks’ for people who pay a lot of money to watch these shows. They call it entertainment - we call it abuse! You see Dolphins, Orcas and Whales don’t live in tanks - they live in the ocean - right?
Here are some tell-tale signs that dolphins, orcas and Whales - were Born to be Wild
Collapsed Dorsal Fins
Have you ever noticed that captive orcas have collapsed floppy dorsal fins? It certainly doesn’t look right but according to a member of SeaWorld’s education department, orcas have collapsed dorsal fins due to genetics, gravity, and injury from play … nothing to do with their captivity So, now take a look at a wild orca, either on TV, or look at pictures on the internet, read books - what you will consistently see are their dorsal fins are vertically and stable. In fact, less than 1% of wild orcas have collapsed dorsal fins whilst all 56 captive orcas have collapsed fins.
Aggression Amongst Tank “Pod” Members
In the wild dolphins and orcas are communal animals. They rely on the skills of the pod to survive. they work collaboratively when hunting for food, teaching and rearing the young, even when resting, some of the pod are on the lookout. We’re not saying they never fall out but they do work together.
Aggression in captive animals is notably higher. Dolphins and Orcas are often kept with other ‘tank mates’ - from different pods and species - often species that would not normally ever meet in the wild! They cannot communicate and become frustrated by their confinement they have nowhere to escape conflict, so they suffer from each other’s stress. Many captive dolphins and orca have injuries caused by tank mates. This rarely occurs in their wild environment. Although dolphins and orcas are natural carnivores they are not aggressive towards each other - instead, they rely on each other for survival.
Abnormal Repetitive Behaviours
Captive animals, including zoo animals and dolphins and orcas, exhibit stereotypical behaviour, the same pattern is observed in human prisoners. Some stereotypic behaviours in Dolphins and Orcas would include swimming in circles repetitively, establishing pecking orders, and lying motionless at the surface or on the aquarium floor for relatively long periods of time.
If you lived every day confined to your bath, you would find you have very little to do. There is no purpose to life. Many dolphins and orcas spend their time biting down on bars that separate them in they're living pools. These are very much smaller than the Performance pools that the paying public see. Unfortunately, this neurotic behaviour results in serious dental issues. Captive cetaceans’ teeth are often chipped or broken, with some needing dental work to drill the pulp from their inside of their teeth.
Dolphins and Orcas have been known to slam themselves against the sides of their tanks and ram the cage bars at high speed, causing cuts, bruises and skin abrasions. Orcas, in particular, rub the tip of their noses against the bars, wearing away the skin and creating large sores.
Vomiting - Yes really!
According to former SeaWorld Orca trainer John Hargrove, “Nearly every single killer whale regurgitated their food after we ended our interaction.” Some have been seen playing within their own vomit, probably through boredom.
For some dolphins and orcas, a captive life proves too much. They have been known to throw themselves from their tanks, preferring to die than to remain captive.
Reliance on Medication
Dolphins and Orcas can suffer from a form of depression. SeaWorld has admitted to medicating their orcas with psychoactive drugs (similar to valium). Surely a recognition then that these animals are suffering stress and anxiety and possibly severe mental illness. According to SeaWorld the treatment is to calm the animals and has nothing to do with them being captive.
Captive dolphins and orcas are kept in unnatural environments, so it isn’t too surprising they suffer from some unusual medical conditions. For example, in warm climates, the small pools heat up very quickly, unable to dive to cooler water, as they would in the ocean, captive cetaceans suffer a form of sunburn from the UV rays. Their dark skin offers no protection and they burn. Also, captive cetaceans spend a lot of time floating on the water surface due to boredom - something, unknown in the wild. Kanduke, a large male orca, at SeaWorld, died unexpectedly, the cause was a pathogen transmitted by mosquitoes, - he can only have been infected whilst lying on the water surface - when in the wild would a mosquito meet a killer whale? Dolphins in the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas suffered from a contagious ‘pox’, caused by stress and poor general health according to a report from the U.S. National Institute of Health.
According to a research study conducted in 1995 by Robert Small and Douglas Demaster, the annual mortality rate for captive cetaceans was two and a half times higher than that of wild cetaceans. SeaWorld disputes this, claiming that with modern care techniques and antibiotics that their captive animals can outlive their wild cousins.
There remains much conjecture and the real facts are hard to establish. It is believed that wild orcas can live as long as 80 to 90 years, whilst only two female orcas in captivity have passed the age of 40, and no males have lived longer than 35 years.