This past summer saw a slew of controversy surrounding SeaWorld and its captive orcas, and the most recent chapter in the story of these unfortunate creatures, who are forced to live and perform in captivity, unfolded this week when In Defense of Animals (IDA) issued a call for government action against the amusement park.
The call to action is a result of the recent death of a 12-year old male orca named Sumar, who lived out his short lifespan at SeaWorld San Diego. According to IDA, Sumar's premature death only adds to the story of misery surrounding the young animal's family. His mother, Taima, died earlier this year at SeaWorld Orlando "after a grueling and agonizing attempt to give birth to her full-term stillborn calf." She was only 20 years old. And Sumar's father, Tilikum, also at SeaWorld in Orlando, "killed his trainer this past February, the third person to be killed by him as a result of his captivity and status as SeaWorld’s prize bull."
IDA alleges that SeaWorld repeatedly and purposely misleads the public as to the average lifespan of an orca. In the wild, females can live to be 80 to 90 years old and males are not far behind at 50 to 60 years. And yet, Sumar and his mother fell far short of that estimate, a fate that, according to IDA, most captive orcas will meet.
“Captivity is the cruelest fate ever imposed on these intelligent, socially complex and far-ranging pelagic species,” said Scotlund Haisley, President of In Defense of Animals. “Yet SeaWorld continues to breed more orcas despite all the risks, the suffering, cruel and needless deaths that occur along with their deadly pursuits.”
In the wake of the incidents that have occurred at SeaWorld, The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) is accepting public comments, like the one IDA has issued, in the ongoing debate surrounding "permit regulations for public display of marine mammals." IDA is certain that orcas are not a species well-suited to breeding and living in captivity-regardless of their entertainment value to the public. They are hopeful NOAA will "enact regulations that would ban captive breeding programs for them and phase out their public display."
Haisley said, “By permitting orcas to be displayed in captivity, their suffering and premature death will continue, along with the ongoing injuries and death among people in their proximity. America’s marine conservation ethic is diminished when we continue to subject whales, dolphins and porpoises to life inside tiny, chlorinated tanks and allow these amusement parks to characterize this abuse as conservation and education.”
IDA's mission is "to end animal exploitation, cruelty, and abuse by protecting and advocating for the rights, welfare, and habitats of animals, as well as to raise their status beyond mere property, commodities, or things." With this most recent crusade, they are staying true to that mission.
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Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/http2007