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Captive Orcas ‘Dying to Entertain You’ by Vanessa Williams

Captive Orcas ‘Dying to Entertain You’ by Vanessa Williams

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Published by Jeffrey Ventre
A report for Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS),Chippenham, UK
Produced by Vanessa Williams
A report for Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS),Chippenham, UK
Produced by Vanessa Williams

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Jeffrey Ventre on Dec 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Captive Orcas‘Dying to Entertain You’
The Full StoryA report forWhale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS)Chippenham, UK Produced by Vanessa Williams
IntroductionSection 1 The showbiz orcaSection 2 Life in the wild
FINgerprinting techniques. Community living. Social behaviour. Intelligence. Communication. Orcastudies in other parts of the world. Fact file. Latest news on northern/southern residents.
Section 3 The world orca trade
Capture sites and methods. Legislation. Holding areas [USA/Canada /Iceland/Japan]. Effects of capture upon remaining animals. Potential future capture sites.Transport from the wild. Transport from tank to tank. “Orca laundering”. Breeding loan. Special deals.
Section 4 Life in the tank
Standards and regulations for captive display [USA/Canada/UK/Japan].Conditions in captivity: Pool size. Pool design and water quality. Feeding. Acoustics and ambientnoise. Social composition and companionship. Solitary confinement. Health of captive orcas:Survival rates and longevity. Causes of death. Stress. Aggressive behaviour towards other orcas. Aggression towards trainers.
Section 5 Marine park myths
Education.Conservation.Captive breeding.Research.
Section 6 The display industry makes a killing
Marketing the image. Lobbying. Dubious bedfellows. Drive fisheries. Over-capturing.
Section 7 The times they are a-changing
The future of marine parks. Changing climate of public opinion. Ethics. Alternatives to display.Whale watching. Cetacean-free facilities. Future of current captives. Release programmes.
Section 8 Conclusions and recommendationsAppendix:
Location of current captives, and details of wild-caught orcas
The information contained in this report is believed to be correct at the time of lastpublication: 30th April 2001. Some information is inevitably date-sensitive: pleasenotify the author with any comments or updated information. Copyright: VanessaWilliams, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), Brookfield House, 38 St. PaulStreet, Chippenham, SN15 1LU, UK. Tel: +1249 449500 Fax: +1249 449501Email:
Killer whales, more properly known as orcas, have been kept in captivity since 1961,helpless victims of a blatantly commercial experiment which has seen dozens of wildorcas plucked from their families and forced to live in artificial social groupings whichbear scant resemblance to their natural order. Unaware of their plight, millions of people flock each year to watch the orca show, seduced by the extravagant promises of the display industry. Glossy brochures herald a spectacle - billed "The Wettest Show onEarth!" which will simultaneously entertain and educate the whole family.Visitors are invited to enter a fantasy land, where orcas weighing several tonnes circle,leap and tail-slap seemingly out of sheer high spirits. Highly-choreographed showroutines, performed to a background of tired old rock songs, are presented as "naturalbehaviour". Entranced, many of the spectators fail to register the bare concrete walls of the tank. At show's end, as they file out, few people notice the endless circling of thecaptives in the holding pools or the drooping dorsal fins of the males.Clever marketing and showmanship have, however, failed to completely conceal thereality behind the razzmatazz. Visitors may experience feelings of disappointment,distaste and disillusionment after watching the orcas perform, finding it hard toarticulate these feelings precisely, but aware that the docile, playful orca portrayed isfar removed from the real animal. Similar emotions have been reported after seeingcaptive tigers or elephants - an awareness that the animal's dignity is demeaned andthat, in 'taming the spirit of the great beasts', we, too, are somehow reduced in stature.This growing uneasiness with the concept of keeping orcas in captivity has only beenincreased by a spate of newspaper articles and video footage documenting the realityof the captives' existence. Despite the best attempts of the display industry to blow asmokescreen over such negative publicity, the wider world is now increasingly awarethat all is not well in fantasy-land. In recent years, first a trickle, then a steady torrent, of incidents have been reported. A growing catalogue of "accidents", illnesses, failedpregnancies and premature deaths has forced a dramatic reappraisal of the suitability of orcas for confinement.In 1989, at Sea World's San Diego park, a young female named Kandu rammed into asecond female, Corky, with sufficient force that Kandu died almost instantly, in front of ahorrified crowd of onlookers. In 1991, at Sealand of the Pacific in Canada, a youngfemale trainer called Keltie Byrne was drowned by Sealand's three resident orcas after she accidentally fell into their tank. In July 1999, a 29 year-old man, Daniel Dukes, wasfound dead, draped over the back of male orca, Tillikum, at Sea World’s Florida facility.We will probably never know the full story behind his death. Whilst undeniably the mosttragic, these incidents were by no means isolated. Aggression between captive orcasand, equally disturbingly, aggression towards trainers, has increased in recent years.Disenchanted trainers and orca advocates alike have alleged that the mental andphysical health of the orcas is highly compromised by the captive situation.For years, the display industry has employed a variety of arguments in its attempt to justify keeping orcas captive. We have been led to believe that captivity benefits bothonlookers and animals alike: entertaining and educating audiences whilst, at the sametime, providing a comfortable life for the captives. But, as long-term research into wildorca populations increases our knowledge of the species, so the glaring disparitiesbetween the lives of the captives and the lives of wild orcas becomes all too apparent.The reality of existence for the captives has become painfully obvious: cramped,chlorinated tanks, often inhabited by frustrated and unhealthy whales, performing circustricks which bear little resemblance to their natural behaviour. Many people now feelthat witnessing such impoverishment is unlikely to offer any real educational benefit.In 1992, WDCS commissioned a report entitled "The Performing Orca". Researched andwritten by Erich Hoyt, the report provided an in-depth summary of the issues surroundingthe captive orca industry. In the years following its publication, no fewer than elevenadult orcas have died, eleven calves have died aged four years or under, and therehave been at least six known stillbirths/miscarriages - giving the lie to the display

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