Tag Archives: Death at SeaWorld

SeaWorld uses full-page advertisement: an insult to both orca and human

As SeaWorld recoils from the truth-telling Gabriela Cowperthwaite film, Blackfish, various interests have stepped forward in SeaWorld’s defense.  Its defense by the Florida Attractions Association is not surprising.  Nor is SeaWorld’s own self-defensive ad, a statement which it today published in eight U.S. newspapers.

Also not surprising is its message which is a repackaged refrain that most will recognize.  Its first point, that SeaWorld “does not” capture killer whales in the wild, is a true statement.  Since Blackfish never suggested that SeaWorld is actively capturing orcas (killer whales), it is misleading that this was their ad’s opener.  Significantly, however, is that SeaWorld’s adverstisement omits the fact – the truth – that SeaWorld is part of an initiative to capture other whales for display at its parks, being party to the Georgia Aquarium’s 2012 application to capture 18 wild beluga whales in Russia.

When, however, SeaWorld states that it does not separate killer whale young from their mothers, except, for instance, if the mother cannot care for the young, the lack of truth rankles and the words fall hard on an ear that understands even a little about this process.

Katina is a female orca at SeaWorld Orlando.  SeaWorld has removed five of Katina’s seven young from her.  Because young, wild female orcas learn from older females how to be mothers, Katina, snatched from the wild at about the age of two on October 26, 1978, was premeditatedly removed from her maternal models by the aquarium industry and was, as a result, actively set up by its capture process to fail as a mother.

Despite the lack of appropriate maternal mentoring, however, SeaWorld used Katina to become a breeding orca and to continue the unnatural mother-child relationship that it would then use to justify its own artificial mother-child separations.

So does “bad mothering” explain why SeaWorld would take five of Katina’s seven children away?

Katina, a "stellar" mother, held at SeaWorld Orlando

Katina, a “stellar” mother, held at SeaWorld Orlando

Actually, the record supports just the opposite inference.  SeaWorld found itself extremely and undeservedly fortunate in Katina’s displaying, instead of a poor mothering record, one that indicates that the separation of her children had nothing to do with her mothering skills.  In contrast with SeaWorld’s ad, trainers who worked with Katina, found that her mothering instinct was strong.  Carol Ray, a former SeaWorld trainer featured in Blackfish, who worked directly with Katina, noted that “Katina took to nursing with no trouble and was immediately receptive to the babies.”  She seemed able to care for both her older children and the newborns, but only so long as SeaWorld allowed it.

Despite these good skills, Katina has experienced every mother’s worst nightmare:  the involuntary removal and even death of her children. She has had five of her seven calves taken from her (one was subsequently returned):

  • Kalina, also known as “Baby Shamu,” was Katina’s first-born, and is considered the first successful orca captive birth.  She was taken from Katina when Kalina was four.  While she was returned later, Kalina died at the age of 25.
  • Katerina, taken from Katina at age two, died at SeaWorld of Texas at the age of ten.
  • Taku, Katina’s third, and taken at age 13, died soon after the separation in 2007 at SeaWorld of Texas.
  • Unna, Katina’s fourth, born in 1996, was taken at age 6, and now lives at SeaWorld of Texas.
  • Ikaika, Katina’s fifth, born in 2002, was taken from her for another breeding program at age four, and now lives at SeaWorld San Diego.
  • Nalani, born in 2006, lives at SeaWorld Orlando with Katina.
  • Makaio, Katina’s youngest, born in 2010, is only the second of Katina’s seven calves who has never been separated from his mother.

The notion that a “healthy social structure” is fostered by removing a child from its mother is something that would be stated only by the captivity industry.

Repeating it only makes the nose grow longer

Repeating it only makes the nose grow longer

SeaWorld seems to think that if something is repeated over and over, it begins to ring like the truth.  The only thing that is ringing in this household is the insult that it lobbed at not only the orcas, and the orcas’ mothering skills, but also at our ability to distinguish fact from fiction.

Don’t take the bait.  Don’t go to the dolphin show.  Share Blackfish far and wide.  Join the Blackfish Brigade on Facebook and on Twitter.  Tweet using the hashtag #Blackfish.  Read Death at SeaWorld for a more in-depth understanding.

Death at SeaWorld Panel Discussion Coming to Emory Bookstore

Cetacean lovers in the Southeast: mark your calendars!

Death at SeaWorld

Death at SeaWorld, by David Kirby, released July 17, 2012

On September 17, 2012, David Kirby, New York Times best-selling author and author of Death at SeaWorld, Dr. Naomi Rose, and Dr. Lori Marino will participate in a panel discussion, followed by book-signing.  Ask me if I’m excited.

While I have not seen a specific title of the discussion, it is a safe bet that it will address the safety of humans in close proximity to captive orcas, whether orcas and other cetaceans should be confined in captivity, whether SeaWorld has the best interest of either the human trainers or the orca “trainees” in mind as it runs its marine park enterprise, other issues brought out at trial in the OSHA v. SeaWorld that we may not have heard, and how science could and should inform sound U.S. policy on cetacean captivity, especially now.

All three speakers are experts in cetacean captivity, but bring their own perspective:

David Kirby is the latest to join the cetacean expert ranks, having earned his cetacean stripes while researching and writing Death at SeaWorld.  He brought his over 20 years as an investigative reporter to bear in crafting an engaging tale of the captive orca through the eyes of both orca experts and former orca trainers.

Dr. Naomi Rose, by being highlighted in Kirby’s book, has revealed more of her personal story and how she came to know the orca, than she  may have imagined.  But it is this story of a woman’s personal journey of coming to know the orca – from marine biology graduate student to researcher in orca’s behavior and its community structure to Senior Scientist at Humane Society International – that provides access to the orca in a way that few experience, but many, young and old, will recognize.  And to which the budding marine biologist will aspire.

Dr. Lori Marino, a behavioral psychologist, conducted the research that resulted in the first published findings regarding mirror recognition in bottlenose dolphins, findings that revealed that dolphins are self-aware, sentient beings.  Dr. Marino has not only published her findings on dolphin behavior and spoken on how dolphins are ill-suited to captivity, she has provided her expert opinion in testimony to Congress.  Atlanta is fortunate to have her here as a Senior Lecturer at Emory University.

Perhaps all three will have stories to tell of wild orca songs or news from the Nonhuman Rights Project, having just returned from Superpod II, a gathering of orca experts, which mirrors the gathering of orcas each Summer in a Superpod off the coast of San Juan Island, Washington.

While certainly some of the discussion will surround the issues of safety of the trainers in light of the OSHA judgment that SeaWorld must cease waterwork  (where the humans are in the water with the orcas) until it can better safeguard the lives of the trainers AND SeaWorld’s recent plans to return to waterwork, this little blogger is looking forward to Atlanta’s having more cetacean expertise in its city limits than ever before.  Notwithstanding that the world’s largest dolphin, whale and fish bowl is located right here.

It is such a tremendous honor to have these three experts here at the same time,  in the same room, and in the same city where the the world’s largest aquarium wants to erode cetacean protection from being wild-caught and watched in U.S. whale shows.

Panel Discussion: David Kirby, Dr. Naomi Rose and Dr. Lori Marino:

  • September 17, 2012; 6:00 p.m.
  • Barnes & Noble at Emory Bookstore
  • 1390 Oxford Road
  • Atlanta, GA  30322

It should be a fascinating evening, and one that this blogger will never forget.  And will expect to Tweet about all night long.  On the 17th. Well, and maybe the 16th.  Or the 15th, too.  Ah, hell.  This is the biggest cetacean GOOD news that I’ve heard in a long time.  I hope you don’t mind if I bask in it just a while.  Yes, I’m excited.