Loro Parque not planning to reunite Morgan with her calf any time soon

December 28, 2018

Yesterday Loro Parque announced several research projects it had in the works involving Morgan’s recent female calf. The calf was removed from Morgan’s care after only a few days citing that Morgan “wasn’t producing enough milk.” The calf has been hand reared in the medical pool ever since, and apparently Morgan is being kept in an adjacent tank.

I would have assumed that the calf would be returned to Morgan at the earliest opportunity. Once the calf is coming over for regular bottle feedings and it’s physical health and development were going well the next priority should be to return the calf to Morgan so that its social development can catch up.

Killer whales, like humans, are essentially a blank slate when they are born. Very little about their behavior seems to be instinctive. This is proven by the fact that so far all orca population in the wild seems to have it’s own culture. They not only have their own unique dialects of sound but also their own unique way of feeding and socializing. Resident killer whales in the Pacific North West have strict social hierarchies with individuals never leaving their mother’s pod until the day the matriarch dies. These orca feed only on fish, primarily salmon. Transient whales that share part of their range with the residents feed on marine mammals such as seals, dolphins, and large whales. Transient social structure seems more flexible with individuals seeming to leave their family unites after a certain point. While still another population in New Zealand seems to have their own unique cultural characteristics such as feeding on both fish and marine mammals. There is nothing to explain this difference other than culture, a learned set of behaviors passed down from generation through generation.

In Loro Parque’s blog post they states the following with regard to the development of killer whale echolocation:

There is not much information on whether it is a behaviour that cetaceans learn or if it is innate, nor is there data on the moment in which it appears in their development,

On the surface their plans seem like a great idea. We have this chance to study orca development, why not use it to full advantage? HOWEVER in order to set up an experiment to test if the behavior of echolocation arises on its own through innate instinct you have to control any and all variables for the behavior to appear through social learning. Therefore the Morgan’s female calf HAS to be kept in isolation in order for this experiment to be conducted. Loro Parque has just made it clear that it has no plans to reunite Morgan with her daughter any time soon.

SeaWorld criticizes Express-News investigation as ‘biased’

May 23, 2016

An Express-News investigation of infection deaths at SeaWorld parks was “unfairly critical” and presented an “incomplete set of facts” in a “biased way,” the company said on its blog after the article was published Sunday.

The investigation, based on federal data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, found that infections have caused the deaths of almost 150 sea lions, beluga whales, orcas and other dolphins at SeaWorld parks in the last 30 years. They have been especially deadly for killer whales, contributing to 60 percent of deaths for the species.

Many biologists and veterinarians think captivity impairs the immune systems of marine mammals by making them bored and stressed out, while SeaWorld and its defenders disagree. The company’s critics say stress is the reason many orcas at SeaWorld parks fracture their teeth on concrete and metal in their tanks, opening a pathway for bacteria.

SeaWorld’s blog post includes a quote from Kevin Willis, vice president for biological programs at the Minnesota Zoo, saying animals in his facilities are “not chronically stressed.” The Express-News investigation devoted several paragraphs to SeaWorld’s response to accusations that its marine mammals have high levels of stress.

“Suggesting that they are, because they have less space than their wild counterparts, doesn’t take into account everything faced by their wild counterparts, including hunger, pollution or being preyed on by other animals,” Willis says in the blog post.

The blog post mentions a 1996 study in Marine Mammal Science that was described in the Express-News article. The study shows that semi-domesticated bottlenose dolphins held in a sea pen had lower levels of stress hormones than wild dolphins that had been captured with nets shortly before having their blood tested.

The Express-News investigation came after the deaths of five dolphins, whales and sea lions from infections at the local park since May 2014. Another three marine mammals died from inflammatory diseases often caused by infections.

Along with the federal data, the article was based on interviews with four former SeaWorld trainers; seven experts, including three suggested by SeaWorld; and employees of the two federal agencies that regulate SeaWorld’s animal care, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS. Through another FOIA request, the Express-News obtained inspection documents for SeaWorld’s three U.S. parks from APHIS.

SeaWorld’s blog post notes that the company hosted an Express-News reporter on a visit that included a tour of its animal care facilities. The Express-News also interviewed SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby, Vice President of Veterinary Services Chris Dold and employees of the local park.

In SeaWorld’s blog post, Willis surmises that a high infection rate among captive marine mammals could be caused by too few bacteria in their pools due to federal regulations for water quality. The small amount of bacteria could cause a lack of stimulation of the animals’ immune systems when they are young, he says.

“This is just one hypothesis that some scientists have been looking into, and no scientist would leap to stress as the reason if in fact infection rates were found to be higher in the animals in our care,” Willis says in the post.

Source: ExpressNews.com

Are orcas at SeaWorld suffering from PTSD?

May 15, 2016

There is no longer any serious disagreement among scientists that humans aren’t the only animals who have the capacity to suffer physically and mentally. Elephants, great apes, orcas, dogs, cats and many others can experience depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and compulsive disorders.

We know humans and other animals suffer in parallel ways because of similarities in brain structure, physiology, behavior, and responses to comparable medical interventions. It’s likely that animals suffer even more than many humans generally, simply because it’s impossible for them to make sense of what is happening to them, escape from it or alter their conditions.

In humans, PTSD and mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder, are commonly diagnosed after acute, repeated or chronic trauma. These types of stressors can sometimes overwhelm normal responses, which can cause persistent physiological and structural changes in the brain.

Brain structures and neuroendocrine mechanisms associated with mood and anxiety disorders are shared across a wide range of vertebrates. The hippocampus, found in all mammals, is a brain structure involved in memory storage and retrieval. In humans, PTSD has been associated with reductions in hippocampal volume or activity, perhaps because of recurrent and chronically elevated levels of cortisol, followed by changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which helps regulate stress.

Abnormalities of this axis have been observed and documented in animals subjected to confinement, restraint, isolation or surgical procedures — all of which are routinely faced by orcas in SeaWorld’s tanks. Like humans with PTSD, throughout their lives, captive orcas suffer from threats to their physical health and families as well as exhibiting persistent fear, distress, avoidant behaviors and increased aggression.

Intelligent, sensitive orcas are waiting for a reprieve from their daily suffering. As is the case with humans, the best way to alleviate their distress is by removing the conditions that contribute to it — including imprisonment, social isolation and painful procedures — and by giving them the opportunity to live as nature intended.

Ultimately, we must ask ourselves as a society how we will allow those who are the most vulnerable to us — both human and nonhuman — to be treated.

As we’ve seen with SeaWorld, an impassioned public response can make all the difference. It’s time to acknowledge that justice for animals is the great social movement of our time and that the time for making it a reality is now.

Source: BurlingtonCountyTimes

SeaWorld Orlando Pass Member Town Hall: A Review

The SeaWorld Orlando Town Hall took place this past weekend and definitely gave much-needed closure and answers to many SeaWorld fans. This event took place at Nautilus Theater (adjacent to the soo…

Source: SeaWorld Orlando Pass Member Town Hall: A Review

NOTE: Interesting to note that a “middle east” park is mentioned several times in this review of the May Q&A with SeaWorld’s president. I am a bit wary of SeaWorld’s commitment to the orcas. While their pledge to stop breeding any more whales is a big step in the right direction, I can’t see SeaWorld partnering with a new park and then not sending some of their orca there. They might not be breeding new calves, but family ties would be severed in almost any combination of whales SeaWorld choose to send the the new park. 

That being said however, any move for the whales currently held at Loro would be a plus. That pod had been a disaster from the start, no clear matriarch it’s no wonder there are so many social problems over there. Then again SeaWorld doesn’t currently have many matriarchs to spare, Kayla and Orkid being the only two that are of age and temperament for it. Though Orkid has never moved in her life and I can’t see them starting now at her current age of 27. Only time will tell, something to watch closely.

I Knew SeaWorld Was Terrible. Here’s Why I Kept Working There Anyway.

May 3, 2016

I sometimes get asked why I stayed so long at SeaWorld if I saw what was happening to the whales. And although I understand why people would ask that, they simply don’t understand.

This was not just a job where if you don’t like your boss you simply give your notice and walk away. It’s difficult for most to comprehend how hard it was to say goodbye to the whales I loved, and to stand up to SeaWorld and the captive industry in general.

Imagine that being a killer whale trainer is your identity and has been your identity — and passion — since you were a young child. And now imagine finding out that attaining this dream is nothing like how you thought it would be. By the time I had enough experience to have a full grasp on what captivity was doing to the whales, I was fighting so many demons. I loved these whales more than anything in my life; it was unthinkable to walk away and abandon them.

My rationalization of the situation at SeaWorld became delusional and I believed my love was enough to make up for all the things happening to the whales for the sake of greed and profit. Anyone would want their love to be enough, but it’s not. And then there’s the undeniable cultlike environment we faced by leaving and speaking out. I personally faced that vicious assault, just as I had witnessed versions of it throughout my career done to other trainers who had left and sued SeaWorld. If you don’t have a huge platform and a big backing, SeaWorld will simply crush you into silence.

I refused to let them do that to me, which is why speaking out in “Blackfish” and writing my book, “Beneath the Surface,” was so important to me. The reception from readers and activists all over was overwhelmingly warm, and showed me that being a whistleblower was my role to play all along. Many people played a role: Their passion and grace created the perfect storm that not even a multibillion dollar corporation could overcome.

Even though the company fought back and used every dirty, unprofessional trick it could come up with, the SeaWorld brand has since been decimated and has not been able to fully recover.

With that said, I’m proud of my career for two main reasons. I started at age 20 with the best of intentions — I wanted to live my life with these magnificent animals and I had no clue what was really happening so I fought like hell to stop directives and protocols that were clearly not in the animals’ best interest. And second, because of my career, and my years of direct hands-on experience, I am now able to testify about what truly happens to orcas in captivity, not just provide the sound bites and twisted truths that SeaWorld and other similar entities put out into the world.

I believe with absolute conviction that this was my destiny. I used to think my destiny was to have the career I had with the whales. Now I know it was to have my career and later share my experiences to help save these remarkable creatures.

With the help of the masses of passionate people, animal rights groups and individual marine mammal researchers and scientists such as Dr. Naomi Rose, Dr. Ingrid Visser, Howard Garrett, and many others who have that empathy, we have managed to change history.

The pressure we brought about forced a multibillion dollar company to do something it publicly said it would never do. In March, SeaWorld ended its captive breeding program at all three SeaWorld parks, which included stopping the transport of genetic material across state lines to end artificial insemination.

Mothers and calves will no longer be separated, and the whales’ offspring won’t be sold off in any shady deals with other markets like China and the Middle East.

Our mission from the beginning was to stop captive breeding, and for this to be the last generation of orcas in captivity. And now it’s happening. We just backed it up with an historic California bill, introduced by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), that would make it illegal to keep any new orca in captivity for entertainment purposes. Last month, the bill saw a landslide win in the California Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife committee, which voted 12-1 to support it.

I was honored to support that bill and provide expert testimony alongside the remarkable Dr. Naomi Rose. I can’t tell you what that means to me — I feel incredibly happy for everyone who fought so hard for so long, but most of all I’m thrilled for the whales. Assemblymember Bloom and his staff, in particular his legislative director Guy Strahl, made this bill happen because they witnessed captivity firsthand, and, like the vast majority of the world now, they had the compassion to know that it simply was not right.

At the risk of this being a controversial statement, I must say that SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby is the first SeaWorld CEO ever to reach out to us. In fact, I testified to this before the California State Assembly, as this very dialogue produced the meaningful change we were eager to win, and Mr. Manby deserves credit for that.

Do I trust SeaWorld? Absolutely not. What I hope we’re seeing is Joel Manby ushering in a new era of SeaWorld, and perhaps we’ll even be able to trust them one day. He’s already making big changes: Staffers are getting let go or reassigned and he ultimately agreed that captive orca breeding ends now.

The SeaWorld I don’t trust, and for good reason, is the old guard. Joel Manby is the new guard and I choose to applaud and support him at this moment in time.

When it comes to all the other changes that it is necessary for SeaWorld to make, we’ll just need to give Mr. Manby more time. Encouragingly, what has happened was not just a step in the right direction, but a major historic leap that will cause a positive domino effect for all captive animals, not just orcas.

We have a long way to go; next up is testifying before Congress for federal legislation. But first, let’s all take the time to celebrate this historic victory for the orcas and to look back at how far we’ve come, so we can continue to move forward.

John Hargrove is a former SeaWorld trainer, “Blackfish” star and author of the bestselling memoir “Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish.”

Source: The Dodo

Loro Parque responds to video posted on DolphinProject.net

April 27, 2016

The following was translated and reposted from Loro Parque’s blog

The video published by The Dolphin Project on their website is a new attempt at manipulation through exaggeration and dramatization of a completely normal situation and that is no problem for animals.

In the video shown Morgan (within the medical pool) and Tekoa in the pool B interacting through the door. The interpretation that Morgan is suffering a panic attack is completely incorrect and malicious, all we see is that Morgan wants to open the door to access the pool B and be with Tekoa. When any of these animals (Morgan now exceeds 2,200 kg and 2,700 kg Tekoa’s) push the door shut produce punches heard in the video.

The interpretation of a panic attack is completely ridiculous, orcas are trained daily to enter and remain quiet within medical pools, since it is an essential element for veterinarians to make routine examinations of animals or treat them when some of they are sick. In the same way a spider dog a door when you enter another room, orcas push the doors when they want access to another pool. It is surprising that advocates to end breeding in human care orcas be offended because of these images, precisely because sexual frustration at not being able to access the pool where orcas of the opposite sex to copulate can trigger this type of behavior.

Increasingly, some self-proclaimed animal rights organizations are dedicated to launch these smear campaigns without any proven information based on the welfare and health of animals. Loro Parque orcas are under the care of our team of veterinarians, and receive regularly visited by veterinary experts of cetaceans and medicine inspection by the competent authorities in animal welfare. None of these professionals has found that stress and cruelty allegations are true. There is no doubt that the interest of the organizations conducting these public defamation campaigns is simply to get donations, but not for the welfare of the animals, but for their own welfare and benefit.
In the last 22 years thanks to the work of a zoo internationally recognized for its quality as Loro Parque has been possible to invest more than 16 million dollars in the conservation of endangered species on our planet. The most important success of this work was to get two parrot species critically endangered, and help many others to increase their small populations and not disappear forever. What are the achievements of The Dolphin Project in the conservation of biodiversity? How much money have invested in the conservation of the most endangered species? How many species have been saved? The terrible paradox is that not only have not helped to preserve nature, but aim to destroy those who work daily to save species from extinction. How can then call themselves animal lovers?

Source: Loro Parque Blog

I happen to agree with Loro Parque when they say that Morgan wasn’t panicking. To me it looks like she is frustrated at not having access to Tekoa.

The question becomes why was she denied access to Tekoa. If it was because she had been kept away from Tekoa. If it is due to aggression or something of that nature the separation is understandable but still concerning. She is hitting the gate loud enough to be audible from across the complex.

If not to protect Tekoa from Morgan why put Morgan in a situation where she would do bodily harm to herself? Loro Parque’s post itself states that this behavior is “common place.” How is it not a priority for Loro Parque to do everything they can to stop Morgan’s self destructive behavior. Put her with Tekoa.

The park claims the separation is the result of the breeding ban that SeaWorld has self imposed and then goes on to blame activists for the move. There are chemical methods to keep orca from conceiving (look in Beneath the Surface), it’s bad animal welfare to remove and isolate Morgan under the false excuse of preventing pregnancy.

Scientists Bemoan SeaWorld Decision to Stop Breeding Orcas

ORLANDO, Fla. — Apr 4, 2016, 4:29 PM ET

There’s one last orca birth to come at SeaWorld, and it will probably be the last chance for research biologist Dawn Noren to study up close how female killer whales pass toxins to their calves through their milk.

While SeaWorld’s decision last month to end its orca breeding program delighted animal rights activists, it disappointed many marine scientists, who say they will gradually lose vital opportunities to learn things that could help killer whales in the wild.

Noren got to observe only one mother-and-calf pair at a SeaWorld park before the end of the breeding program was announced.

“It’s really difficult to publish with one. I really was hoping for a couple more, but that is what it is,” said Noren, who works at the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

SeaWorld’s 29 orcas at its parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio could remain on display for decades to come and will continue to be available for study by outside scientists, as they generally have been for many years. The whales are 1 to 51 years old.

But as SeaWorld’s orca population dwindles, researchers will lose chances to collect health data and make other observations, such as drawing blood, measuring their heart rates and lung capacity, and documenting their diets and their growth. As the animals age, scientists say, research will be limited to geriatric orcas.

No other marine park or aquarium in the world has SeaWorld’s experience in maintaining or breeding orcas in captivity.

SeaWorld parks hold all but one of all the orcas in captivity in the U.S., and they have housed more than half of all captive killer whales in the world tracked by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration over the past 50 years. Orcas held in Canada, Japan and Europe have not been as accessible to researchers.

SeaWorld will continue to support research projects underway on hearing, heart rates and blood, said Chris Dold, SeaWorld’s chief zoological officer.

“There won’t be an immediate crunch,” he said. But he acknowledged: “Over time, yeah, there’s a loss of this resource to society and science.”

SeaWorld’s critics, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and WDC/Whale and Dolphin Conservation, sidestepped questions of whether outside researchers will suffer. But they said SeaWorld’s own research has been unhelpful to orcas in the wild.

“SeaWorld has had the largest population of orcas and has had the opportunity to do useful research and had done none of that,” said Jared Goodman, PETA’s director of animal law.

Researchers outside SeaWorld argue they need its facilities and 1,500 employees in animal care to answer questions about wild orca behavior.

“If you want to interact with them and conduct research, the combination of talent you have to have is a scientist with a research question, animals that are healthy so that you’re looking at normal physiological rates, and in between that are the trainers — and I think people miss that,” said Terrie Williams, who runs the Center for Marine Mammal Research and Conservation at University of California, Santa Cruz.

SeaWorld’s decision to end orca breeding and phase out its world-famous killer whale performances by 2019 followed years of protests and a drop in ticket sales at its parks.

The backlash intensified after the 2013 release of “Blackfish,” a documentary that was critical of SeaWorld’s orca care and focused on an animal that killed a trainer during a performance in Orlando in 2010.

In the wake of SeaWorld’s announcement, some researchers fear that lawmakers on Capitol Hill and in states such as Washington and California will ban breeding or keeping of killer whales altogether.

Similar bans targeting other species would have stymied the captive breeding that revived the California condor, said Grey Stafford, incoming president of the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association.

“Those bills can have unforeseen and unintended consequences if and when the next species has a population crash in the wild. It ties the hands of state agencies and sanctuaries and places like SeaWorld to act,” Stafford said.

Source: abcnews.com


The single scientist cited in this article, Noren, was studying how toxins are passed from mother to calf through the mother’s milk. One has to wonder how they were planning to study that subject without harming their test subjects? Injecting something into the captive mother’s food perhaps and try to track it through the baby’s bloodstream? (sounds potentially harmful). Takara and her unborn calf will be the last pair they will be able to study. Makes you wonder who the other pair studied was.
I’ve personally always thought the biological data that can be gotten from captives to be limited. Sure there are some information that you could reliably equate to wild whales but much of it can’t. Take lung and breath capacity for example. Everyone knows the lung capacity and oxygen exchange rate will be different when comparing an average person with an athlete. So why do some scientists consider the lung capacity of captive whales (who swim slow circles if they swim much at all) to be relate able to that of wild whales (who swim up to 100 miles in a single day)?

Keiko Controversy, Fight over Orca Sanctuaries

March 26, 2016

By: Danielle H. Foster

In the wake of Sea World’s announcement to put an end to their killer whale breeding program, news sites have been flooded with Op Eds from both pro and anti-captivity advocates.

Most of those on the anti-captivity sides, while applauding Sea World’s  decision, continue to call for the company to go further and put their animals in ocean sanctuaries. One piece by Jean-Michel Cousteau in the LA times pointed to the simi-release of Keiko as evidence that placing captive whales in sanctuaries as not only possible but necessary.

Cousteau points out how much more enriched Keiko’s life became once he was placed into his seapen in Iceland. He was exposed to the sites and sounds of his natural environment, not possible in a bare concrete tank. During his ocean walks he was able to swim long distances, increasing his health and stamina. He even go the chance interact with wild orca.

Mark Simons, a former Sea World trainer and long time captivity advocate, wrote his own reaction to Cousteau’s article. Simons makes the wild claim that Keiko’s release was equivalent to “animal abuse” and yet fails to back up his claim with substantial evidence. Simons was the husbandry director for the Keiko project and yet doesn’t go into detail on the claims he makes in the article. He even contradicts himself at one point.

“[Keiko] never foraged or ate on his own. Other than the fateful 23 days he was deliberately left at sea”

Keiko was never “deliberately left at sea” he instead swam away from the support boat and didn’t return the rest of the day. Keiko had been following the support boat on walks away from his seapen for several years prior to this. I find it highly unlikely he couldn’t have found his way back within a few days if he hadn’t wanted to remain at sea.

And while it’s true Keiko’s interactions with wild whale were rocky at best, the fact remains that when Keiko returned from his 23 day solo excursion he hadn’t lost any weight. Measurements were taken and no girth was lost. 23 days of not feeding would have brought Keiko’s weight down significantly. He was able to forage on is own.

The issues with Keiko’s release lie with how he was prepared and managed, not with Keiko’s potential to “survive”.

But all of that to me is beside the point. Simons, like many in the pro-captivity community, fail to argue on point. Cousteau and many others (though not all) in the ani-captivity community are not advocating for Sea World’s whales to be set free. There is a vast difference between retirement to a seapen and full return to the wild. If Sea World advocates want to continue to fight against retirement to natural seapens then can they please argue the points made by advocates rather than going off on tangents?

Sea World’s advocates, on the rare occasions when they do, argue against seapens rather than sidestepping into full release, claim that the health risks are too great. They claim that because Sea World’s whales have been in a sterile controlled environment their entire lives they lack a sufficient immune system to deal with exposure to disease and pollution that is present in the world’s oceans.

It’s an argument that doesn’t hold water for me. If captive whales had compromised immune systems due to captivity then logically Keiko should have caught something and died within months his transfer to the seapen not years. What’s more, a fact largely ignored, is that captive dolphins have been transferred from concrete tanks to natural pens and lagoons without issue for decades. There are many facilities out there that don’t hold their bottlenose dolphins in concrete tanks but instead house them in netted lagoons, as natural environment as you can get and still be in captivity. On occasion these animals are brought to these natural enclosures from other captive facilities, facilities where they were held in concrete tanks. There is no great health risk to the dolphins already in the lagoons and those brought from other facilities. Why would the “health risks” be any greater for killer whales than it is for bottlenose dolphins?

Op Ed: Tilikum’s Quality of life. Waiting for the End.

By: Danielle H. Foster

On March 8, 2016 SeaWorld announced their whale Tilikum was dying. SeaWorld’s website states that they are “treating him with care and medication for what we believe is a bacterial infection in the lungs.” In the accompanying video, SeaWorld staff say that they have identified the bacteria species and that “[t]he species that we found in Tilikum is a type of bacteria that is found in a variety of species, including wild cetaceans.”

Some have speculated that Tilikum picked up a “superbug,” an especially antibacterial resistant type of bacteria, due to the constant use of antibiotics for his chronic teeth issues. Regardless of how the bacteria was contracted, the focus should be on Tilikum’s quality of life during his last days. For many species aside from killer whales, life expectancy in zoos is longer than it would be in the wild. Most zoos caring for aging animals are often faced with a difficult problem: balancing medical care and quality of life during the animal’s last years or days.

However, it has been reported that even before SeaWorld’s announcement on Tilikum’s health, he had been kept in a medical pool around the clock.  In their press release, SeaWorld stated “’[o]ur veterinarians are focused on managing his illness in a way that makes him comfortable and creates an enriching life.” How does keeping him in the medical pool 24 hour a day constitute an enriching life?

It is normal to quarantine or limit an animal’s space for an illness or injury that is temporary, but that assumes that the animal is expected to recover. What is not done, however, is keeping the animal confined in a small space while keepers wait for it to die. Though I know most killer whale fans on both the pro and anti-captivity side would rather not think of it, any other zoo animal in Tilikum’s situation would likely have been humanely euthanized by now.

When SeaWorld acquired Tilikum from Sea Land of the Pacific, they applied for an emergency permit to import him. At the time, Tilikum was kept in the facility’s “module” building, a small metal structure not much smaller than SeaWorld’s medical pool. SeaWorld made a short video to support their permit application at the time here (at 6:12). In the video SeaWorld said that “[t]he management and health problems . . . associated with Tilikum staying in the medical pool may be serious . . . prolonged stay . . . in the medical pool may lead to the development of serious medical problems including . . . inadequate repertory exchange and respiratory infection . . .” SeaWorld considered a prolonged stay in a medical pool unacceptable and yet, since before they announced his illness, Tilikum has been confined to SeaWorld’s own medical pool.

Why would SeaWorld allow Tilikum to persist in a situation that even they say is unacceptable? One disturbing possibility is that SeaWorld is simply winding down the clock and waiting for him to die. According to former trainers, killer whale deaths are never peaceful; they often panic and go into death throes. If possible, the whales are restrained in a stretcher. That probably isn’t possible in Tilikum’s case, given his history of aggression towards people, as maneuvering whales into a stretcher requires trainers enter at least waist-deep into the water with them. Keeping Tilikum confined in a small medical pool would likely be the next best thing.

SeaWorld claims that they put Tilikum’s best interests first. However, that would require keeping his life as “normal” as possible for as long as possible. That would at minimum mean giving him access to one of the larger pools and orca companionship. In Tilikum’s case, the veterinarians admit that they can’t cure him and he will only get worse. In SeaWorld’s own assessment when applying for an import permit in 1992, long term living conditions in a medical pool causes problems in breathing and can even cause the very same type of illness Tilikum is dying of. Living in a tiny medical pool is not good quality of life for a killer whale. However, if Tillikum is unable or unwilling to leave the medical pool his quality of life can no longer be maintained, and any responsible zoo would humanely euthanize him.

By not either returning Tilikum to his ‘normal’ life or ending his suffering, SeaWorld is simply being cruel. What possible good could it do to continue to keep him locked in the medical pool, especially when they have already admitted no amount of medical care could result in a full recovery? No responsible zoo would act like this.