November 27, 2011
Killer Whales Deserve Freedom
Orcas are complex social creatures deserving freedom and respect, not captivity in theme parks under the guise of public education and entertainment. Aquarium staffs say captive whales are priceless educational tools. However, people can educate their children by bringing them to the wild instead of bringing the wild to them at the expense of the Orcas health and well-being. "The price of a family admission ticket is what continues to drive this cruel spectacle," according to Michael O' Sullivan, the Executive Director of The Humane Society of Canada (Whales in Captivity, 2010, Para. 3). Orcas suffer in many ways in captivity, and are subject to many stressful situations they would never encounter in the wild. Captivity changes not only their mental state but also their physical appearance. One of the most salient physical effects of captivity is dorsal fin disfiguration. In the captive population, almost every male has a flopped dorsal fin, and most females have at least some bend to their dorsal. In the wild, male dorsal fins can exceed heights of six feet straight up. The best theory is that the dorsal fin flops from the force of gravity. Dorsal fins are made of cartilage, not bone. Orcas are one of the fastest mammals in the sea; they can reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour. Orcas can dive underwater to depths of close to 200 feet. When diving, the animal’s heart rate slows from 60 beats per minute to 30 beats per minute. Meanwhile, oxygen-carrying blood diverts away from the extremities, and then navigates toward the heart, lungs, and brain, where there is more oxygen needed. These biological changes permit the animal to conserve oxygen while submerged for longer periods of time (About Orcas - Physical Characteristics, 2005). In the wild Orcas have support from the water, keeping their dorsal erect. In captivity, Orcas are at the...