Tilikum remind us that Orcas do not belong in captivity. The SeaWorld’s largest and best-known Orca died at the age of 36 last week. Tilikum was separated from his family when he was 2 years old. This represents only 2 years of his entire life to experience freedom and the joy of a family.

Tilikum was confined to a pool, compromising his health, suffering for boredom, psychosis and compulsive behavior. His aggressive behavior made some headlines in the past as clear evidence of the cruelty and the dangers of Orcas captivity.

Tilikum experience is a example of the wrong relation between man and nature. Business becoming the priority and the unique reason to confine a majestic wild animal. Tilikim was born to be free but he worked for SeaWorld his entire life (not his choice of course).

Orcas keeping in captivity suffer. They are living isolated in a place where they don’t belong. Could you image a 22 feet and 12,000 pounds wild animal living in a tank that compared to the human size is like living in a bathtub? Orcas use to cross the oceans for hours, travelling up to 100 miles in day and diving to a depth of almost 200 feet. In captivity, they reside in a collection of small tanks filled with chlorinated water.  A whale born to be the king of the ocean reduced to a pool to satisfy the curiosity of SeaWorld audiences and to growth their business!

In the wild, Orcas spend their lives with their relatives. How fantastic is that. Orcas live and hunt in groups named “pods”. A pod can have as few as three members to as many as a hundred or more. The pod is a family of five generations of orcas. In captivity, first they are separated from their family and them they are put in a tank with no relatives or alone. For years they keep doing loops in their tank and most of the time the small spaces lead to fights with the other orcas. Very stressful context.

The former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove, author of Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish, said to Natural geographic “I wish it wasn’t that way. It would make my life so much easier if I could say that those animals are thriving in captivity, living happy and enriched lives. Unfortunately, after all the years of experience that I had, I saw the psychological and physical trauma that results from captivity. A massive corporate entity is exploiting the hell out of the whales and the trainers.”

Orcas in captivity have an annual mortality rate that is 2.5 times higher than Orca whales in ocean. Among some pods in the Pacific Northwest, males can live up to 60-70 years, and females can live to 90 or more. Most orcas at SeaWorld die in their teens and twenties, sometimes under abnormal circumstances as described in this HSI report.

Orcas do not belong in captivity. They are physically and psychologically harmed, living shorter lives,  injuring each other and humans in a way rarely or never observed in the wild. Here some figures from Whale and Dolphin Conservation and more reasons to say no to SeaWorld and its enslavement of animals by refusing to buy a ticket.

  • At least 150 orcas have been taken into captivity from the wild since 1961
  • At least 164 orcas have died in captivity, not including 30 miscarried or still-born calves.
  • SeaWorld holds 22 orcas in its three parks in the United States and owns (at least) a further four at Loro Parque in Spain (ownership of Adan and Morgan not verified).
  • At least forty-six orcas have died at SeaWorld.
  • At least 13 orcas have been taken from the wild into captivity since 2002, most recently in Russia.

We cannot stand this situation. The first thing I promise myself today “I will NEVER go to these themes parks”. I am sure we can find other ways to spend our free time.  We don’t need to be cruel, sponsor enslavement  and  believe that we have the right to change these animals’ lives for a 30 minutes show.

The damage caused to Orcas in the name of profit is unacceptable.  Orca natural habitat is vast ocean, where they live, swim and hunt. These majestic animals belong in the ocean. They don’t deserve to be taken from their home and be holding in a tank prison.

The movement to protect Orcas started but still a big path to get there. San Diego SeaWorld will stop the traditional shows.  SeaWorld’s locations in San Antonio, Texas, and Orlando, Fla., are expected to follow suit and end their versions of the popular show by 2019. But this is not enough, they are planning to keep the Orcas doing some shows just reducing lights and tricks. Is this a real progress? NO they shouldn’t be captive. The whales aren’t happy doing tricks and circles in a pool ! They are born to be free.

Now we know that behind the lights and the fantasy, there is a dark side of illnesses and suffering. The price we are asking Orcas to pay is high to sponsor a cruel industry.

Freedom and respect, this is what Orcas deserve.

 “Do whales know each other’s names? Can they recognise each other as individuals by sounds alone? We have cut the whales off from themselves. Creatures that communicated for tens of millions of years have now effectively been silenced.” 
― Carl SaganCosmos

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