What’s Killing the Orcas at SeaWorld?

Nyar, a killer whale born in 1993 at SeaWorld Orlando, was rejected and bullied so badly by her mother that she had to be separated in her own pool — and her condition went downhill from there.

The “super-friendly” young orca became weaker while taking medication several times a day for a fungal infection, said John Jett, who worked with her while he was a trainer at the park. She eventually had to be force-fed with a bottle and a stomach tube when she became too feeble to lift her head on the side of the tank for meals, he said. Finally, Nyar died at age two from the infection in her brain.

“It was a really pitiful case,” said Jett, who left his job as a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando shortly after Nyar died in April 1996. “When she died, I had had enough.”

Nyar’s illness is common at SeaWorld’s parks in San Antonio, Orlando and San Diego, where almost 150 sea lions, beluga whales, orcas and other dolphins have died from infections since 1986, out of a total of 816 listed under the parks’ care, according to information reported by SeaWorld to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and analyzed by the San Antonio Express-News.

In San Antonio, five dolphins, whales and sea lions have died from infections since May 2014 and another three from inflammatory diseases, including Stella the beluga whale before Thanksgiving from inflammation of the brain and Unna the killer whale around Christmas from a bacterial infection. Dart, a Pacific white-sided dolphin, died in February from a fungal infection in her brain.

“Infectious disease is the number one cause of death in animals both in the wild as well as animals that live in managed care,” said Chris Dold, SeaWorld’s vice president of veterinary services. “The number of animals that come in and die of infectious disease in our rescue and rehabilitation programs greatly outnumbers the number of animals that die within our parks.”

Infections have caused more than 35 percent of marine mammal deaths at the parks, while another 11 percent were due to disorders often caused by infections, such as inflammation of the brain and intestines, records show.

They have been especially deadly for orcas and other dolphins, contributing to 60 percent of the deaths of orcas at the three parks and 55 percent for bottlenose and Pacific white-sided dolphins, according to the data, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The rates are lower for harbor seals, with 37 percent; beluga whales, with 30 percent; and California sea lions, with 25 percent, the data show.

The full article can be found at Expressnews.atavist.com

Tilikum – Improving but not out of the woods

May 21, 2016

A lot of fans have been asking for another Tilikum update, so we’re back with the latest from Director of Animal Training Kelly Flaherty-Clark. While our teams continue to treat him with care and medication for what we believe is a bacterial infection in his lungs, we are encouraged by some improvement in his lab tests.

As we’ve noted from the onset, Tilikum is an older whale, and has some good days and some not so good days, but will continue to receive the world-class care that SeaWorld is known for. Keep checking back here for the latest updates, and be sure to check out more about Tilikum, as well as the rest of SeaWorld’s orcas, on our Orca Profile Pages.

Source: SeaWorldCares.com/blog

 

Tilikum Update 5.15.16

Sunday, May 15, 2016

 

It has been a couple months since we have been able to check on Tilikum, but he continues to fight the good fight.

 Today he was observed swimming in “E” pool, next to the medical pool.  The fact that he was moving was a welcome relief.  Even when he is not sick, he doesn’t always swim. Instead he spends lots of time logging at the surface.

There were times, particularly at the beginning of each show, when he would look through the gate.  It’s as if he is watching a TV show of his life.  Like Dory I cannot speak whale, but this makes me think that he wants to join in the action.  He has not done the splash segment of the show or been on public display in months.

I asked the infamous trainer Holly how he was doing, and she said he was having a good day today. She said he is not out of the woods yet, but he continues to have good days and bad days.

We will continue to monitor his progress.

Source: OceanAdvocateNews.com

A Guy Just Offered SeaWorld $1,000,000 to Release Tilikum the Orca into a Sanctuary

SUNDAY MAY 8, 2016

SeaWorld has spend the last few years get absolutely slammed for their treatment of animals.They started off with good intentions… take in whales, dolphins, and any other sea creature that wasn’t able to survive in the wild, rehabilitate it, and let people ogle it for educational purposes. It was nice.

People opened their wallets, SeaWorld got rich, animals that would’ve otherwise died got a half-assed second chance at a not-so-great life. Better than the alternative, I suppose. Then it turned into a business, and shit hit the fan. Breeding programs, taking babies from their mothers, etc. It was all gravy, basically, until the film Blackfish came out, and a whole bunch of people realized at once that SeaWorld was basically Guantanamo Bay with clown makeup on. Maybe less waterboarding, but not a great place for an animal to live. After a few years of backlash, including a very public battle with the California Coastal Commission involving an attempt at a super shady deal to increase orca tank sizes if they were allowed to keep breeding whales, SeaWorld finally caved to public pressure and stopped bringing baby whales into a life in a pool. Long story short, the public won. But that still leaves the question of the orcas currently still in captivity–no one wants to see them there, but the fact remains that it’s very likely they’d die in the wild. So what to do? Well, a team of scientists has an answer… although SeaWorld isn’t really ok with it.

The team, including orca expert Naomi Rose, a couple of ex-SeaWorld trainers, and Lori Marino, the executive director of The Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, is planning on building the very first permanent sanctuary for whales and dolphins that aren’t able to survive in the wild, but shouldn’t be stuck in a tiny pool jumping through hoops for “educational” purposes.

The whole thing came about back in March, after SeaWorld made the announcement that they’d end their captive breeding program. Activists (and people in general) celebrated. But then came the question of what to do with the old whales–the ones that had spent years in crowded, tiny tanks, and still had years left. SeaWorld said that the whales were too weak from captivity to be released into the wild, a sentiment that Naomi Rose disagreed with.

A few days ago, the team made the announcement that they’d fired up plans for something called The Whale Sanctuary Project. As the name implies, they’re hoping to find a place where not only captive whales, but all cetaceans, can live out the rest of their days in relative normalcy. Right now, they’re looking for a suitable location. It will be in North America somewhere.

“There are sanctuaries for other large, highly social, and wide-ranging mammals, including elephants and great apes, but there are none anywhere in the world yet for dolphins and whales,” said Marino. ”Cetacean sanctuary initiatives are long overdue, and we now have the best possible team of experts to ensure an optimal quality of life and care for individual cetaceans.”

The CEO of a company called Munchkin, Inc, is on board with the idea. So on board, in fact, that Steve Dunn offered SeaWorld a million dollars to retire Tilikum to a sanctuary. No word yet on SeaWorld’s reaction, and they’ve been notoriously tight with their whales. It seems, though, that the public no longer wants to pay to watch intelligent creatures penned up for our enjoyment, and that’s a good thing. Maybe if they can get a massive payday out of the deal, it’ll work.

Source: www.TheInertia.com

 

 

Plans for a whale sanctuary ride a wave of support, but face a storm of controversy

May 5, 2016 at 5:33 pm

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An effort to create the world’s first sanctuary set aside for rehabilitating whales and dolphins is moving ahead, but now the hard part begins.

Today marked the official launch of the Whale Sanctuary Project, a non-profit organization that aims to identify and build a refuge for whales, porpoises and dolphins that have been retired from entertainment facilities or rescued from injury or sickness in the wild.

Munchkin Inc., a baby-product company headquartered in California, put up an initial $200,000 contribution to begin looking at potential sites for a seaside sanctuary and draw up a strategic plan for the operation’s early phase. Another $1 million was pledged to complete the sanctuary once the site is selected.

“Munchkin has long favored a natural coastal ocean sanctuary as an alternative solution to maintaining orcas in captivity, so we are eager to support The Whale Sanctuary Project’s efforts on behalf of cetaceans retired from the entertainment industry,” Munchkin founder and CEO Steven Dunn said in a statement. “We are dedicated not only to these majestic mammals, but also to helping parents and children understand what they can do to help orcas and others live the rest of their lives happily and safely.”

A decision on the site could be made within six to nine months, according to the project’s outreach coordinator, Michael Mountain. Coastal areas of Washington state and British Columbia are among the locales under consideration, along with Maine and Nova Scotia on the East Coast. Once a site is selected, Mountain said it could take another 18 months or more to prepare the sanctuary for its first resident, depending on funding.

Marine mammals regularly pass through protected waters such as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, but the Whale Sanctuary Project would create dedicated spaces, using nets or “sea pens,” to contain cetaceans that can’t survive in the wild. For more than 20 years, the Washington-based Orca Network has proposed creating such a sanctuary at Eastsound on Orcas Island in the San Juans.

The best-known case of cetacean rehabilitation relates to Keiko, the “Free Willy” orca (a.k.a. killer whale) that was released in the late 1990s and ended up being returned to his home waters off Iceland. He never fully integrated with wild whales, and died of pneumonia in 2003.

Since then, orcas at SeaWorld San Diego have been implicated in three human deaths, adding to the controversy over marine mammals in captivity. Documentaries such as “Blackfish” and “The Cove” energized the opposition. In March, SeaWorld said it would stop breeding orcas and eventually phase out their use in performances.

For now, SeaWorld plans to keep the orcas it has at its facilities. However, the organizers of the Whale Sanctuary Project hope that the animals will eventually find refuge with them.

“There are sanctuaries for other large, highly social and wide-ranging mammals, including elephants and great apes, but there are none anywhere in the world yet for dolphins and whales,” the project’s leader, neuroscientist Lori Marino, said in today’s announcement. “Cetacean sanctuary initiatives are long overdue, and we now have the best possible team of experts to ensure an optimal quality of life and care for individual cetaceans.”

Marino is the executive director of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy. During her time as a researcher at Emory University, she published a series of studies suggesting that dolphins and orcas have significant cognitive capacity.

The Munchkin money should provide a boost to the Whale Sanctuary Project, but in a report published today by the journal Science, some experts questioned how successful the project will be. Shawn Noren, a physiologist and orca researcher at the University of California at Santa Cruz, was quoted as saying that “mind-boggling” challenges lie ahead.

By some accounts, the cost of creating the sanctuary could eventually amount to tens of millions of dollars, or even hundreds of millions.

“I’d rather see that money spent protecting marine areas and conducting basic science,” Richard Connor, an animal behaviorist at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, was quoted as saying.

Source: GeekWire.com

SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby meets with, reassures pass holders

SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby

April 30, 2016

SeaWorld Chief Executive Officer Joel Manby came face to face with some of the company’s most loyal fans Saturday to explain what he called “the single hardest decision I’ve ever been involved in.”

SeaWorld in March announced it would end killer-whale breeding, phasing out its display of the animals over the next few decades.

Since then, Manby has reached out to both employees and customers, some of whom felt SeaWorld had betrayed them and caved in to its critics.

Manby held an online forum for annual pass holders a few weeks ago. About 300 people attended Saturday’s in-person town hall at SeaWorld Orlando’s Nautilus Theater. A similar meeting will happen Sunday at the company’s San Diego park, followed by another in San Diego in a couple weeks.

Manby told the group “it was gut-wrenching” to make a decision that will eventually phase out the theme-park company’s signature attraction.

“There were days where I felt, `I can’t do this. I would rather resign than have to make this decision.’ It is not what I dreamed would happen when I came to SeaWorld.”

But Manby saw twin losing battles looming ahead — one against declining attendance, another against increased legislation targeting orcas in captivity. SeaWorld has been fighting both after the 2010 death of a trainer and the subsequent anti-captivity documentary “Blackfish.”

“This is a beautiful, great company that got a bad rap,” Manby said.

Much of the audience agreed. Still, preaching to the converted can be a delicate task when some of the converted feel as though you’ve made a deal with the devil.

“They should have fought ‘Blackfish’ tooth and nail,” one attendee grumbled before the meeting.

“It upset me” when SeaWorld agreed to stop breeding orcas, said John Jeffries, a diehard fan from Cocoa who visits a couple of times a week. After the meeting, he said he felt more reassured about the future. “I think he [Manby] is the guy that will lead us and put “Blackfish” to rest,” Jeffries said.

Jeffries told Manby the company originally hadn’t stood up for itself enough when “Blackfish” came out. “I’m with you, man,” Manby said. “We’ve got to fight.”

That brought one of several bursts of applause from the audience.

Manby hosted the forum with SeaWorld Orlando president Donnie Mills and Chris Dold,SeaWorld Entertainment‘s chief zoological officer.

The forum also covered new improvements to the park. And Mills made a welcome announcement for many: He wants to bring back the popular mime act, perhaps as early as next year. Three mimes lost their jobs in a mass layoff at the end of 2014.

Customers submitted questions in writing. One asked whether SeaWorld might ever take in Lolita, a lone killer whale at the Miami Seaquarium. Dold said moving the aging orca might not be good for her health and that “she’s thriving there at Miami Seaquarium.” Another asked whether SeaWorld might ever change its decision about ending breeding. Manby said a couple of centuries from now, orcas’ conditions in the ocean many deteriorate to the point that people “may ask us to take whales again. It’s not something we’re going to address now.”

Loyal customers like such direct contact with company executives because it makes them feel their voices are being heard, said Robert Niles, editor of Theme Park Insider. “That said, a lot of SeaWorld fans felt burnt by Manby and thought that the company caved to anti-captivity activists, so Manby and SeaWorld have work to do to repair those relationship with their core customers,” Niles said in an email. “But it’s a good sign that Manby’s aggressively addressing this.”

Source: OrlandoSentinel.com

New Update: Tilikum’s Health & Care

 

April 18, 2016

“As we’ve noted from the onset, Tilikum has some good days and some not so good days. He recently had a few of the not so good days in succession.  Over the weekend and today his appetite improved a good deal, and we are encouraged by his increased engagement with trainers. Because he had some rough days over the past week, he is in the medical pool where trainers, care staff and veterinarians can monitor him around the clock, and offer him the care and attention he deserves. We know that his fans want him to feel better, and are cautiously optimistic that he will maintain this trend so they can see him soon. Thank you all for your thoughts and wishes. It means a lot to the trainers, veterinarians and staff.”

Source: SeaWorldCares.com


I’ve noted before, keeping Tilikum in the medpool for days is something even SeaWorld admits is bad for his mental and physical health. Long stays in the medpool can cause the very same issues that he is suffering from. See HERE for the full article.

Tilikum continues to approve, now in E pool?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

 

It has been 12 days since SeaWorld’s announcement that Tilikum, their star killer whale, was experiencing failing health.  His future looked bleak at the time of the announcement.

Today Ocean Advocate News saw a very different Tilikum.  While he was still being kept in the med pool he was much more active.  In fact, he was more active than he has been seen in healthy times.  A number of SeaWorld staff including trainers, educators and stadium workers all report that he is being put into “E” pool, an adjacent pool to the med pool, in between shows.  While that was not seen today, Tilikum was seen waiting near the gate to possibly get into that pool.

 To Read the Full Article go HERE