Life in a Bath Tub: Orca Entertainment at What Cost?

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Orcas, killer whales, Rolf Hicker Nature Photography from Marinebio.org

Text by Kimberly Cecchini

I wouldn’t be thriving if I was living in a bath tub,”  Australian orca proponent Tony Moore retorted during our interview when I shared Sea World’s Vice President of Veterinary Service’s claim that its whales were thriving in the park.  Moore, a marketing manager in the health care industry, has recently turned his attention back to his passion for animals by initiating a proposal for the care of the orcas that may be mandated for release from Sea World.  He has practical experience built upon his passion; Moore holds a degree in Zoology and has worked on projects for the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries.

Focusing his energy on Cetaceans was instinctive as he has always had an affinity for the sea and these animals are particularly “…emotive to the public and incredibly intelligent.”  Furthermore, Moore is alarmed by the significantly growing number of captive cetaceans in eastern Europe and Asia.  Although Moore recognizes that there are numerous eager animal advocate groups, he sees that many lack the ability to build and implement successful plans.  He hopes to use his own background and relationships with experts to develop a mutually viable plan in the service of the orcas that may be released.

Getting Into the Bath Tub

“You must question why orcas have attacked so many trainers over the years but have never hurt anyone in the wild. Socially cetaceans and specifically orcas are not that different to humans. In fact it can be argued that they are more socially motivated as they live with their family all their lives. Forcing animals of their intelligence to change this behaviour must impact on their psychological state.”  -Orca Advocate, Tony Moore

In order to engender an allure for the public, theme parks apparently have created a positive image of their practices to sustain ticket sales.  According to Dr. Naomi Rose of the Animal Welfare Institute and the sponsor of the stalled California bill to ban captive orca breeding and whale shows, studies on orcas have been rosily colored by their marine park origins, “The history is that our science is built on the backs of people who got their start in the public display industry.”  In a Sacramento Bee article, she directly states that orcas in captivity do not thrive like their wild kin.

Back in 1998, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDC) detailed the effects of captivity on orcas in an opposing report, asserting that it is difficult to create conditions that are conducive to the anatomical, communal and environmental needs of these intricate mammals.  The report refers also to orcas’ natural predilection to maintain group and family dynamics for long distance travel, communication and the obtainment of nutrition.  In no uncertain terms, the WDC calls these theme parks “aquatic circuses” and advocates for their abolition,

“Captivity severely compromises their quality of life to an unacceptable degree, through confinement in minuscule tanks.  Such confinement is often characterised by forced associations,  sensory deprivation and adverse intrusion by visitors. Marine parks can no longer justify their captivity under the false premise of  education, conservation and research.”

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 Getting Out of the Bath Tub

Sixteen years later, the debate persists.  Even progressive California has pushed bill AB 2140 off for another year, but Moore still sees a possibly favorable domino effect with bills planned in Washington state, Texas and Florida.  The plan he is developing focuses on the two Sea World orcas that would be candidates for release as the other ones have issues that would preclude their successful release into the wild.  As recommended in a New York Times piece, the other orcas may, in the interest of their post-captivity well-being, be better served if they were kept, “in larger, more natural settings, something like sea pens — inshore areas of ocean that can be closed in by nets.”

As some cetaceans sympathizers battle the economic powers of tourist destinations as Sea World, other sympathizers like Tony Moore are looking at the future of the orcas that they hope will touch the sea again.  Tonight at Dawn looks forward to updates from California and from Moore and his co-activists.

Follow Tony Moore on Twitter:  @crystalize61

References:

Cecchini, Kimberly. “Tony Moore, Advocate.” E-mail interview. 8 May 2014.

Gorman, James. “Smart, Social and Erratic in Captivity.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 29 July 2013. Web. 25 May 2014.

Hicker, Rolf. “Orcas (Killer Whales), Orcinus Orca.” MarineBio.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2014.

Mooney, Jerye. “Captive Cetaceans: A Handbook for Campaigners.” (n.d.): n. pag. Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC). WDC, 1 Jan. 1998. Web. 25 May 2014.

White, Jeremy B. “Bill to Ban California SeaWorld Orca Shows Sidetracked.” The Sacramento Bee. The Sacramento Bee, 8 Apr. 2014. Web. 25 May 2014.

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3 thoughts on “Life in a Bath Tub: Orca Entertainment at What Cost?

  1. That infographic is painful to read (but necessary and I’m glad you posted it). I’m surprised that today people still patronize a business like Sea World. It sounds like there is a glimmer of hope for these majestic creatures though.

    1. Thank you for your words and I need to check out your blog. I thought that info graphic was poignant. I’m surprised and not surprised people patronize businesses like Sea World. Educating folks is the key, so please share!!! Thank you for reading!

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