SeaWorld's damage control team is in overdrive following the tragic death of a trainer who was attacked by one of the theme park's captive orcas. But if SeaWorld held news conferences every time an animal died at its facilities, people would be staying away in droves. SeaWorld, which owns most of the captive orcas and bottlenose dolphins in the U.S., has one of the worst animal care records in the country.
Twenty-one orcas died in U.S. SeaWorld facilities between 1986 and 2008--an average of nearly one each year for 22 years. Their deaths were caused by a range of factors, including severe trauma, intestinal gangrene, acute hemorrhagic pneumonia, pulmonary abscesses, chronic kidney disease, chronic cardiovascular failure, septicemia and influenza. In some cases, the cause of death could not even be determined, but it is clear that none of these animals died of old age. Dozens of bottlenose dolphins have also died at SeaWorld. Marine mammals are literally dying to entertain you.
Ocean animals inhabit vast, fascinating and complex worlds. Orcas are intelligent predators who work cooperatively in search of food. They share intricate relationships and swim as much as 100 miles every day. At SeaWorld, orcas perform circus-type tricks for food; swim endless circles in small, barren concrete tanks; and live far short of the 60-year maximum life span that orcas enjoy in the wild. Their worlds have been reduced from fathoms to gallons. Is it any wonder that they are being driven insane by their diminished lives?
In 2007, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued a report concluding that a fatal attack on a SeaWorld trainer was inevitable and not a matter of "if" but "when." The study was conducted after an orca dragged a trainer underwater, nearly drowning him in front of horrified spectators during a November 2006 incident at SeaWorld San Diego.
At SeaWorld San Antonio, a trainer was repeatedly slammed underwater by an orca during a 2004 performance. At SeaWorld Orlando in 2008, a dolphin was fatally injured when she collided with another dolphin during a show.
Killer whales, also called orcas, are the largest members of the dolphin family. Studies reveal that dolphins have distinct personalities, have a strong sense of self, communicate with one another using their own complex language and can think about the future. Studies also demonstrate that newly learned behaviors can be passed from one dolphin to another. Researchers conclude that the cognitive capacity of dolphins is second only to that of humans and recommend that dolphins be given the same moral standing as people.
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