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.

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

  1. Seaworld say they have never captured a whale yet they have acquired whales from other aquariums.
    Isn’t that like dealing with stolen goods….

    • See? That’s the trick. SeaWorld didn’t say that they “never” captured a whale, yet most readers would think they did. What they said was in the present tense. “SeaWorld does not capture . . .” They even admit to directly capturing two. And your point is right on that the trading in whales and dolphins hides things.

  2. Funny, they’ve acquired a certain young orca called Morgan, taken from the wild on a rehab and release permit, now languishing in horrendous conditions at loroparque and now property of seaworld, google freemorgan

  3. The dirty little secret behind this claim is that SeaWorld or any other marine mammal circus can take whales from another facility who DID take them from the wild. That’s the “once removed” trick. It is part of their overall bag of tricks to appear to be something they aren’t.

  4. We r with u 100%

  5. 7 Orcas were captured off the coast of Russia this year alone for Marine Parks including Sea World..

  6. Let us not forget that when Seaworld showed up in Puget Sound to “participate” in the resolution of the orphaned “Springer”, the only solution Seaworld vets provided was to “rescue” her into captivity. (Seaworld would be more than happy to provide a permanent home, y’know). Seaworld was eventually run out of town and Springer was reunited with her northern resident clan. She’s thriving, despite the ominous predictions of Seaworld’s “experts”.

  7. not only is Springer thriving as Dave said, she had her first calf this year!!!! Both are doing great.

  8. Why is it that places like Seaworld exist when all you need to see is provided naturally out at sea.
    It is time for the places to be shut down and stop this cruelty…!

  9. Sea World can’t deny being connected to Loro Parque , the 4 resident Orca’s at Loro Parque are on lone from Sea World . Sea World also trained the trainers , who left Loro Parque a while ago due to bullying by the park manager . As a result of incompetence they now have 4 Orca’s that can not be in the same pool without attacking each other , not to mention them bullying Morgan . Slave World has a lot more to answer to than people think .

  10. Mo good article. Am I right in thinking takara was separated from 1st 2 calves also? One of them moved to loro parque?

    • You appear to be right, based on readily-available information. This link ( ) indicates that Takara’s firstborn, Kohana, was transferred to Loro Parque when Kohana was not quite four. Takara’s second-born, Trua (a male), remained in place, while Takara (pregnant with her to-be third-born) was moved. So, yes, Takara has been separated from her two first children, when both children were less than four.

  11. Sea world is nothing more than a glorified slave world…. They are only in it for profit. And although they don’t literally go out and capture the Whales or dolphins that they hold in captivity they are just as guilty of the murders that take place in Taiji and the Faroese each year. If there was no demand to acquire then these hunts would not be happening. Regardless of what Sea World and the FAA tell you this is SLAVERY in the cruelest form.. The dolphins and whales are just waiting on their Lincoln to abolish this act and SET THEM FREE!

  12. Blackfish — Where Are We Going w This? — Anyone? Bueller?

    Ok, I am going to ask the question, since no one else has or will:

    “With the unmitigated success of the movie Blackfish (kudos), and the very real possibility of bankrupting of SeaWorld, what are the campaigns next steps for the whales?”

    It costs several million dollars per animal, per year, to keep whales in captivity. Re-introduction into the wild with Keiko (Free Willy) was a complete disaster. The animal starved to death after being passed on by four or five different conservation orgs, each using Keiko as a fundraising and awareness platform – the irony should not be lost on anyone.

    Can we keep captive born and human conditioned whales in offshore pens?

    If so who pays for them? (estimated at $30-50 million per year, not to mention set up costs, for every whale in captivity that’s about $150 million).

    If so will they be truly happier?

    Who is offering solutions that work?

    • It is very curious to me that you seem to imagine that no one has thought of these questions.

      But to Keiko, his reintroduction was not a “complete disaster.” Quite to contrary, Keiko, who was in poor health and, as I understand, not predicted to live out the year, experienced a successful release. After his release from the amusement park Reino Aventura, I believe that he gained about 3,000 pounds, learned to hunt his own fish, swam thousands of miles, and lived a freer life for three years before becoming ill and dying. So, while the captive industry is frequently the source of the notion that his release was a failure, the facts tell a different story.

      But you are right to note that there are many facets of their release to sanctuaries or even to their wild homes that must be considered.

      From my perspective, the question of cost is a fairly simple one. In the spirit of “polluter pays,” those who have benefited from the orca’s captive lives should bear the cost of their free ones.

      To ridicule the ethical goal of rehabilitate and release (to whatever degree and for whomever it will work) by reducing the challenging questions to a simple “yes, we have the answer” or “no, we don’t” belies one’s underlying desire that it fail. While this might not apply to you, as you may have borrowed these questions from one of those sources, I simply recommend that we go to work on the right outcome, however long it takes, however many resources must be brought to bear and that captivity be ended once and for all.

      The restoration of lives is worth it.

  13. to the commenter, MIKE…..even if we get to the point where no additional animals are captured & breeding is stopped – wouldn’t that be a success?

  14. Cath – In my view, that would be an interim success. But to me, that’s like saying that we’ll make sure that the justice system no longer wrongly imprisons anyone, but for you guys already wrongly imprisoned, well, we just won’t breed you.

    Rehabilitation and release to a sea pen where they can again swim in ocean water – their real water – and can swim in straight lines for more than a few feet is the true success. For those wild ones with mothers and aunts and uncles and siblings out there in the wild, we won’t have tried until we try to reintroduce them to their families. If that doesn’t work,then they have, at least, a beautiful cove under the sun and stars, and with enough depth that they can weather the wild and beautiful storms of a natural life.

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