by Vanessa Tang
When you think about SeaWorld, you may think about its amazing attractions. You could picture the giant killer whales (orcas), swimming happily in their tanks or the dolphins jumping into the air under their trainer’s commands. Families watch the sea lions and children can touch the sea life right in front of them.
Even with all of these “once- in- a- lifetime” opportunities, the SeaWorld stocks sank down 50% this year. The visitor amounts have dropped too; dropping down to 15% of the usual attendance. Why? SeaWorld is inadequate to take care of any of their animals.
The animals they have in their shows, in captivity, have serious health problems. Most are stressed, or under stimulated, causing them to lash out and hurt the people they interact with. The orcas have been known to survive for about 50 years in the wild, but under SeaWorld’s care, their life expectancy decreased to about only 13 years in captivity. SeaWorld covered up the fact that the male whales with floppy, collapsed fins are completely normal, but according to Dr. Heather Rally, it is a sign that the whales are unhealthy. The officials have also covered up the whale’s sunburn with black-zinc oxide. Constant human interaction with whales, dolphins, and other creatures only increase their stress levels. “It was pretty surprising, I didn’t know that… ,“ says Imari Lowe, a freshman at Tustin High. No one really did know those facts because SeaWorld disguised the animals and their health issues so well. What else could they be hiding?
The trainers at SeaWorld are not what they seem to be. The trainers are more like performers than marine biologists. The website seaworldofhurt.com, reports that, “trainers often have no formal education in marine biology,” and do not really educate visitors about sea life. They just entertain and put on a great show. It’s not the first time SeaWorld has deceived us. The whales in their (bathtub-like to the whales) tanks are captured and taken from their own families. An example of this would be Vicky, a killer whale who was, “ripped from her own mother’s side at just 19 months of age and eventually shipped off to Tenerife,” states David Kirby, a journalist, and author of Death at SeaWorld . Without proper care, these large, intelligent creatures are often physically and emotionally hurt.
After the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, the SeaWorld corporation was under fire by anti- captivity organizations. Blackfish is a documentary about the life of Tilikum, a killer whale at SeaWorld Orlando, who killed several people. The movie presents the problems regarding SeaWorld and other sea-park industries. It also discusses the relationships that humans have made with nature and why we know so little about the animals. It was extremely popular and led people to question if SeaWorld was really “that way”; uncaring for their animals and only paying attention to how much money they make. PETA and anti-captivity supporters reacted by protesting and demanding Virgin Airlines to cut ties with SeaWorld. They have also been pressuring SeaWorld to release their animals. SeaWorld corporation has released a statement on their official website saying, “We object to Blackfish… Nothing could be further from the truth.”
About a year after Blackfish‘s release, SeaWorld announced its expansion plans for their beloved orca whales. The construction would, “greatly expand the orcas’ habitat,” explained Christopher Dold, SeaWorld’s head veterinarian. The project is called Blue World and is supposed to be finished by 2018 in San Diego, and May 2016 in San Antonio, though SeaWorld Orlando is yet to have a date of completion. Additional features, like ocean-like currents and, “other features designed to stimulate and challenge the whales,” added Greg Allen, a writer for npr.org. The enlargement of the tanks will cost millions of dollars but, “nothing about enlarging the pools will deal with the stress and health issues associated with captivity”, said Ted Zimmerman, associate producer of Blackfish. There is only so much that they will do to help the animals, despite SeaWorld’s claims to have helped and rehabilitated,”more than 24,000 animals,” and PETA’s findings that some orcas were actually captured and put into captivity.
Many people have been avoiding SeaWorld after the release of Blackfish, but PETA and other anti-SeaWorld people still want SeaWorld to release all of its animals. The website seaworldorhurt.com, run by PETA, has become very popular for those protesting against SeaWorld. PETA is currently pressuring Triple A (AAA), an automobile club, to sever its ties with SeaWorld and encourages people to help them do so by sending letters to the CEO. David Kirby, a journalist, has also listed a few ways to help the killer whales trapped in their tanks. He calls for people to: educate others about the whales in captivity, support anti-captivity groups (like the Animal Welfare Institute), protest, and use social media, and voice opinions on the issue. These organizations and passionate people want the public to help free and care for these animals stuck in captivity under the care of incapable people. .