Dolphin Captivity Information

Captivity/Dolphin Slaughter Info
If you have a question and it’s not on here please message me or email me at dolphindefender@globalwildlifewarriors.org.

Regardless of any factual data to support my claims, I think that keeping orcas in captivity is immoral and unethical. They have brains more convoluted than that of a human and have strong family ties and social connections just like us. Therefore, I consider captivity to be a form of slavery. We are reducing the top predators of the ocean to circus clowns. Here are the arguments educated animal activists like me have:

Animal activists argue that:

  • Some orcas were kidnapped and sent to SeaWorld before the 90s when captive breeding became more successful. These orcas still alive include Kasatka (SW Orlando), Orkid ( SW San Diego), Tilikum (SW Orlando), Ulises (SW San Diego), Corky II (SW San Diego) and Katina (SW Orlando).

  • This process caused the Southern Resident population of orcas to become endangered. SeaWorld claims its breeding helps to sustain endangered populations, potentially leading the public to think that all orcas are endangered.

  • Even if breeding programs could help sustain populations, genetic diversity is very low. Many orcas are inbred and most offspring are sired by Tilikum. Male orcas are masturbated for their sperm and females are artificially inseminated. In the wild, they are free to choose their own mates.

    View this opinion article that goes more in-depth: http://digitaljournal.com/article/352913

  • Orcas cannot choose social bonds and face attacks from other orcas and separation from their mothers. Many orca calves are separated at a young age, though SeaWorld claims otherwise.

  • It is relatively unsafe for trainers to work with orcas, considering there have been ZERO reported attacks on humans in the wild. In captivity, 115 known attacks have occurred since the first incident in 1967. Since 1991, four trainers were killed. (orcahome.de)

  • Orcas in captivity have a shorter lifespan. According to the NOAA, “[In the wild] males typically live for about 30 years, but can live as long as 50-60 years; females typically live about 50 years,but can live as long as 80-90 years.” Life expectancy of wild orcas does vary in geographic location (i.e. orcas in Puget Sound are known to live longer), but this data is an average.

    • According to the Center for Whale Research and a study done by researchers (references on link below), since February 25th of 2013, the average lifetime in captivity for all whales (deceased and alive, 204 animals) is 8 years 6 months. This average has gone up to 15 years 6 months for orcas currently alive. From Stefan Jacobs of the CWR, “Within in the initial years of killer whales in captivity there was substantial improvement in keeping the animals alive, but in average orcas in captivity are still far away from reaching their natural life expectancies.” http://www.orcahome.de/lifeexpectancy.htm

  • Orcas in captivity are more susceptible to collapsed dorsal fins than those in the wild. The phenomena is caused in captivity primarily in variables including time spent at water surface (very large amount), swimming around in circles. The fin is supported by tissue and not bone, and this tissue weakens with less of a workout than that of an an orca in the wild, who normally travels far (up to 100km) and deep in water. More information and studies (located at bottom) in link below: http://marinelife.about.com/od/marinelife101/f/killerwhaledorsalfincollapse.htm

Viable (not false or misleading) pro-captivity arguments with rebuttals include:

note: Nothing from SeaWorld’s website has been used here, just as I tried to avoid Animal Rights blogs/websites in the previous section. Most of the information on SW’s website and even PETA’s has found to be distorted, misleading or completely fraudulent. The next section goes more into this.

  • A common question I am asked is this: What happens to the whales if you succeed? I really hate it when people think I just want to dump orcas in the ocean without a thought. That is unreasonable and unpractical. My goal is to release all current captive-born orcas to sea pens where they can still be cared for and wild-born orcas whose families have been found to be rehabilitated and released if possible. This is not with Tilikum (though his family has been located), as practically all of his teeth are gone and he would not be able to hunt. Bottom line is sea pens are the best solution, where orcas can experience their natural environment but will have the care they need since they have no experience in the wild (captive-born ones anyway). Scientific research is still feasible on the animals and they will at least be able to taste the ocean. Had a really pleasant, open-minded conversation with someone who supports SeaWorld a few weeks ago on a fan page where we agreed on this. Wish that could happen more often instead of threats to kill one another. That will accomplish nothing.

  • Captivity is educational. Seeing the animals up close and alive gives one the passion and desire to save them – you cannot protect what you do not see.

    • This the primary justification for keeping dolphins in captivity. SeaWorld argues that seeing whales in public display is educational, however I believe that it actually hinders educational knowledge and teaches our generation that it is okay to exploit animals.

    • I never learned a thing and was lied to many times by trainers when my parents took me and on the Mesa Verde Middle School field trip in sixth grade (examples in next section). What changed me is when my love for dolphins and the environment (NOT gained by visiting SeaWorld) was able to overpower the factual distortion around me. A dolphin looked me in the eye after I pretended I had a fish so I could pet it. That was what started turning me around. When I saw dolphins in the wild for the first time in Savannah, Georgia, it taught me more respect for the environment than SeaWorld ever did. The following week when our family returned home, I became an animal activist. I never had any real concern for the environment or its inhabitants beforehand.

    • It gives kids a giddy feeling inside when they see dolphins jump high in the air…I remember the feeling very well. We hear the happy music and think the dolphins must be happy too. We never even consider that they may be suffering. A dolphin’s smile is nature’s greatest illusion. Even if I were smiling all the time, does that mean I never feel pain or sadness?

    • From ex-Flipper trainer and cetacean rights leader Ric O’Barry: “Whale and dolphin displays significantly distort the public’s understanding of the marine environment. Educational messages often take second place to the whale and dolphin performance, which are the main feature of dolphinariums. The tricks that are displayed are exaggerated variations of natural behaviors and do little to further the public’s knowledge of cetaceans and their habitats. In addition, the complex nature of the lives of whales and dolphins cannot possibly be illustrated with reference to animals in a tank. Educational materials offered by captive facilities often blatantly omit facts about a species’ unique social structure and acoustic repertoire, as well as its remarkable extended families and natural tendency to range freely over vast areas. Visitors to captive facilities may be subject to mis-information, and leave with a distorted perception of cetaceans and their marine environments.”

    • Most people come to SeaWorld seeking entertainment with the justification/illusion of education. I wanted to go to SeaWorld when I was little because I wanted to see dolphins do tricks, not because I wanted to help them.

  • A life in captivity is safer than that of life in the wild. Off one of my YouTube videos, a person commented that the ocean is “a world of toxins and poisons.”

    • This argument, though common, still seems silly to me. I understand where he is coming from in that humans have damaged the oceans – why does SeaWorld never mention this in dolphin shows? I never heard them say a thing about the dangers dolphins face (such as military sonar, biomagnification of mercury and other pollutants, and loss of food source) and have no recollection of any such information from my visits. If they truly were for education, they would have a message that would stick in a kid’s mind instead of a stereotypical image of a dolphin.

    • It is like saying that slaves were cared for by their masters and would never be able to fend for themselves in the real world. If this is the case, then maybe we should focus more on stopping overfishing and military sonar instead of entertainment

    • I don’t know about dolphins, but I would rather live 5 years in freedom and facing adversity than 100 with everything handed to me on a silver platter. Challenges and the ability to make choices are the very foundation of life – captive dolphins are deprived of both.

  • The following is from a World Dolphin Conservation Society PDF…please check out for more info: ( http://www.wdcs.org/submissions_bin/Introduction_to_Captivity.pdf ). This PDF may be a good starting point to share with students and has more arguments and questions commonly seen.

    • Animals born in captivity are domesticated, so they’re not wild anymore?

    • Domestication is the modification of an animal over a significant number of generations through selective breeding in captivity. Certain characteristics are either enhanced or eliminated and the animals become adapted to a significant extent to a life intimately associated with man (i.e. dogs). Whales and dolphins are wild animals. In captivity they may develop strong social bonds with their human trainers however this is correctly known as being socialized or habituated, not domesticated. Domestication happens over a very long period of evolutionary time, while an individual is habituated during its lifetime. Breeding in dolphinariums is rare, let alone breeding that occurs between individuals with the most docile personalities or smallest number or size of teeth. Dolphins are tamed, they are not domesticated.”


There are many more arguments to both sides, but these are at the top of the list. If you have any for either side, please let me know. I love hearing everyone’s opinion so I can enrich my own.

Potentially misleading/fraudulent information from both sides:

The following is part of a report I wrote in AP Environmental Science (rushed it so a bit choppy)…information is not as specific as what I have given you because the essay was about ignorance/misleading information in environmentalism/animal rights in general:

Businesses often assert the necessity of a product to appeal to the masses and make it look like they are, for hyperbolic emphasis, kind and benevolent while animal activist organizations such as PETA sometimes over-dramatize an issue to gain public support, even though their intentions may be for helping the earth. Perhaps the most current and iconic one of those issues is cetacean (dolphins and other whales) captivity.

There are multiple arguments for both sides, both inaccurate and factual, although the ones made by SeaWorld are weak and often dilute from the truth. In a response to the documentary gone viral, Blackfish, that tells the controversial story of an orca named Tilikum who is responsible for the death of multiple trainers (David Kirby, Death at SeaWorld), SeaWorld released a public statement to confuse the public and basically start an all-out war while they still make a profit, billions a year, while only a small percentage goes to helping wild wildlife (they state over $70 million has gone to captive orcas the past three years).

The following statement is full of misleading information, regardless of my bias on the issue: “SeaWorld’s killer whales’ life spans are equivalent with those in the wild” and that “five of our animals are older than 30, and one of our whales is close to 50.” According to the NOAA, “males typically live for about 30 years, but can live as long as 50-60 years; females typically live about 50 years, but can live as long as 80-90 years.” What SeaWorld fails to mention is that those orcas were all captured from the wild (even though they later say only two were captured and only four orcas are above 30) and not born in captivity. Also, it is only taking a small number and making it look like the whole. An average is the sum of all numbers divided by the amount of them, those highs are only five out of a current fifty-four orcas in captivity.

The orcas that SeaWorld has mentioned in their quote are Tilikum, Corky 2, Katina, and Ulises. Corky is the female orca they mentioned to be close to 50. This statement they provided is not necessarily a complete lie, but cleverly dilutes the public from the whole truth, just as one may say global warming isn’t happening because temperature goes down for a month.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have animal rights groups doing the same thing to rally up people’s emotions and get them to turn against SeaWorld. On an article by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), they state that “SeaWorld kidnaps orcas from their families in the wild and confines them to tanks that are so small they represent only 0.0001 percent of the distance that the whales would travel in a single day in the ocean.The latter part of the statement is proven factual (scientists estimate orcas travel 100km per day), however the first part of the statement is quite misleading. Since the 80s, SeaWorld has not captured orcas directly from the wild, even though there is an ongoing controversy surrounding an orca named Morgan, who was rehabilitated but not released even though she was healthy. Their captures, as a side note, caused the Southern Resident population to be endangered [the only endangered orca population (NOAA)]. Both sides of the argument manipulate factual evidence to their advantage to further their case of “compassion” or “business,” leaving people wondering what is true as they make uneducated decisions that are harmful to the planet and society.

  • SeaWorld recently uploaded further comments about the misuse of information on Blackfish. I am not sure of the accuracy of their statements and am still fitting together the pieces there. The directors of Blackfish have repeatedly asked SeaWorld to put in their story, but they refused. So the claim of Blackfish being inaccurate is not a very good one. Their statements are here: http://seaworld.com/en/truth/truth-about-blackfish/

    • I find it interesting how they would put such a piece of writing that draws to irrational emotion rather than fact on their website (you can hear it in the tone of the writer), yet refuse public debates and the chance to give their view in the movie.

    • They are distracting people from the whole point of Blackfish –that keeping orcas in captivity is profitable and immoral. They are only defending themselves to the point where they can save a buck.

    • Admitted, Blackfish never mentions SeaWorld’s “good” deeds to focus on this point. I did see a couple of places where things were unclear and could have been better clarified. This issue is a good topic for debate, and in our arguments we lose focus of the one and only goal: to protect the environment and those within it. This is SeaWorld’s goal, yet they are trying to make themselves look good. Why haven’t they said anything about the dolphin slaughter in Taiji? Because they would lose business. The two are connected (see other document attached in email). It is always a struggle to find quality information, and I still believe many things I see at first glance. The human mind is lazy and it likes to attach on to what it finds most powerful. I think this needs to be fixed and I strive heavily to achieve it, though in today’s world it is so hard.

Some disturbing information about SeaWorld:

1. They buy and transfer dolphins from aquariums (SeaWorld Japan – not affiliated with SeaWorlds in US) that capture dolphins in Taiji, literally paying for them to buy dolphins captured where 1000s of dolphins are slaughtered each year, though they do not actually take dolphins captured there.

They are also a member of IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association) and WAZA (World Assoc. of Zoos and Aquariums), which fully condone the slaughter though they deny it on their websites. (http://www.seashepherd.org/commentary-and-editorials/2013/10/14/seaworld-and-co-waza-and-imata-and-their-collaboration-with-the-dolphin-slaughter-in-japan-623)

2. They keep the slaughter going by keeping the captive dolphin industry profitable and desirable. As long as SeaWorld is making money, other companies who take dolphins from Taiji (SeaWorld has not since the 90s – has been banned in the US in 1993), will want to keep their businesses around.

3. They fully condone and even help out in the process of slaughtering an endangered beluga whale population for captive breeding programs. None of these animals could ever be released in the wild if the natural population went extinct because of the slaughter (blog but provides commentary and proof to statements: http://cetaceaninspiration.tumblr.com/post/24369171815/seaworld-supports-beluga-hunts).

  1. In 2010, SeaWorld was sued because they polluted Mission Bay – excess levels of ammonia. From the San Diego Reader in 2012, “Since April 13, 2005, there have been numerous violations of effluent limitations at the facility, including three exceedances of Ammonia, six exceedances of Enterococcus, and one exceedance of Total coliform.” They were sued, but bought themselves out of it.-Recently they were also reported to have dumped pharmaceutical drugs into the ocean
    (Is SeaWorld flushing drugs into ocean? | UTSanDiego.com )

5. They drill the teeth of orcas without any form of anesthesia that would not knock them out
(meaning they would die since they couldn’t breath). http://theorcaproject.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/the-hidden-cost-of-captivity-oral-health-of-killer-whales-exposed/

This statement was so shocking: “The whales are conditioned to “accept” the noise, heat, vibration and obvious pain associated with drilling vertically through the tooth column and into the fleshy pulp below. Success is measured by blood spilling out of the hole, in which case it’s apparent the bore is complete.  – Former SeaWorld trainer.”

How you can help:

  • first and foremost educate yourself more on the issue – so much to know. Watch Blackfish, discuss it with others, read Death at SeaWorld by David Kirby (I have a copy I’m willing to let people borrow),

  • Don’t give your money to SeaWorld or any Dolphinarium

  • Join in protests against SeaWorld (the next is Feb. 16th from 10am to 1pm). There is usually one or two every month. Contact me for more information if you are interested.

  • Go whale watching instead – it is more educational, cheaper, and more fun seeing cetaceans in their natural environment. Whale sightings are guaranteed every day on the Hornblower in the Downtown marina.

  • Watch A Fall from Freedom, Blackfish, and The Cove.

  • Start petitions and send letters to dolphinariums

  • Be creative and don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard!

  • Again visit: http://www.wdcs.org/submissions_bin/Introduction_to_Captivity.pdf

See other document for more and feel free to share your ideas with me and your peers 🙂

Check out my videos (they are appealing to emotion and are in a perspective that may be that of the whales in captivity): https://www.youtube.com/user/dolphin5297.

I am also writing a fiction novel about an orca named Lolita who was captured 43 years ago. She is held at the Miami Seaquarium and has a good chance of being released. View more here: Petition To Include The Killer Whale Known As Lolita In The Endangered Species Act Listing Of Southern Resident Killer Whales :: Northwest Regional Office. The book, dryly put, is her telling her life story from when she was a child up to the present day.

Thanks for taking the time to read!!!

One response to “Dolphin Captivity Information

  1. Pingback: Dolphin Times: Issue 2 | Stop Cetacean Captivity

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