Monday, August 8, 2011

Captive Orcas: Doomed Either Way...

Pending further study, a court in Amsterdam has blocked the sale of a young female Orca (named Morgan by the Dutch) to a Spanish amusement park but the court stopped short of ordering her to be returned to the North Sea where the then-sick animal was rescued a year ago. While freeing Morgan instead of condemning her to a life sentence in a concrete tank in Spain is a romantic notion, the harsh reality is that this resilient little being is doomed either way.

These are highly social animals: their family group is everything to them; providing food, comfort, and safety, to the exclusion of Orcas from different pods. As such, even if the court rules in favor of Morgan's release, the likelihood of her handlers being able to find her family group is slim: barring that, she has little chance of surviving on her own. Arguably, the alternative is even worse.

Female Orcas can live 80 years in the wild but only 10 years on average in captivity. There are over 40 Killer Whales in marine parks around the globe; two-thirds of these are owned by Sea World. While the Company's management and owners wax eloquent about how their actions have contributed to mankind's knowledge about the species, the truth is that captive Orcas are big business, pure and simple. If millions of people didn't spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year gawking at Orcas as they perform stupid animal tricks, we wonder how quickly Sea World's corporate altruism would fade?

Whether a Killer Whale is captured in the wild and sold into captivity, or born there, they lead foreshortened lives of mind-numbing boredom, physical distress, and emotional anguish. On several occasions, this has led to Orcas killing their trainers as happened at Sea World Orlando last year when a 12,000-pound male named Tilikum attacked his trainer, drowning her. It was the third such death involving this particular animal.

Sadly, Morgan is doomed no matter which way the Dutch court rules. And meanwhile, the owners of Sea World, and all the other marine parks like it around the world, keep raking in the money...

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