Captive or Free?
7 November 2011
Orca Whales: Captive or Free?
For many years, people have gone to places like SeaWorld in either Orlando, California, or Texas to marvel at and to be entertained by the creatures known as Orcinus orca. For those people not familiar with the scientific term, they are also called Orca whales. These powerful, magnificent, intelligent creatures have become the trademarks of the parks where they entertain, and they have also made a lasting impression on the children and adults who come to see any of their shows. “More than 13 million people flock to the company’s three parks in Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio to see Shamu every year (Vary, linccweb.org)”. But while it is true that people greatly enjoy these shows, there is a growing controversy regarding the argument about whether these animals should be caged or free. This paper is going to explore both sides of this argument, while offering possible solutions to this fragile, yet majorly-controversial issue.
The first part of this paper is going to look at the argument for preserving captivity. There are many people in the world today that feel that there is nothing wrong with having whales in captivity. Primarily, they are used for public entertainment at places like SeaWorld in the United States and some other whale parks around the world. Without a doubt, Orca whales at these parks have quickly become the primary source of income, generating hundreds of millions of dollars each year in revenue. The executives at SeaWorld truly do seem to have the whale’s best interest at heart by stating the argument that it is necessary to capture some whales to study their lifestyles as a way of promoting species preservation. Anderson 2
They like having the whales in a place that is easily accessible, so they can sit and observe the whale’s behavior or attempt to interact with the whales, without the fear of them being able to swim away. Human beings love the idea of having an animal as large and as powerful as the Orca whale under their complete control due to thinking that they can tame and domesticate the Orca just the same way they have domesticated dogs, cats, horses, birds, and many other wild creatures over the years. Human beings enjoy having power over anything, particularly anything as large as a killer whale. But sometimes, nature strikes back, as it did when Dawn Brancheau, a trainer at SeaWorld, was killed by an Orca whale named Tilikum. This incident is just one more to add to the many other incidents that have fueled the arguments calling for the freedom of captive Orcas.
Now, it is time to look at some of the reasons why Orca whales should be free, rather than imprisoned. The first issue is the overall health of the killer whale itself. When it comes to the Orca’s tank, chlorine is added to salt water in order to fight bacteria, and to help the water closely resemble that of the sea. However, when this is done, Orcas can, and have developed skin disorders much like the papilloma virus in humans. One such example of this is Keiko, the star of “Free Willy” (Ettlin, 1993). Keiko developed a skin condition due to the chlorine in his tank that ultimately was the beginning of the end of his life on any stage: movie or performance tank.
Another issue with captive Orcas’ health is tooth decay. There is a much higher risk of captive Orca whales having broken or fractured teeth due to age and confinement. Orca whales can also develop these conditions due to chewing on the steel gates of the tank to establish dominance or what is commonly known as “barking” and or “jaw popping” (The Orca Project, 2010). Poor oral hygiene in Orca whales not only can lead to cracking and breaking of their teeth, but also to serious and quite painful oral infections. As with humans also, oral infections in Orcas can spread and lead to other health problems...