In sunny Orlando, Fla., there is a huge amount of exciting things to do. Disney World, Universal and Seaworld. At least, it was exciting for me as a kid and for other kids as well. I am not going to sit here and lie and tell you I never went to SeaWorld. I am glad I did not because the amusement park is, well, a disgrace. I loved Seaworld and I loved their new waterpark. Going down a tube with little dolphins swimming around you? Obviously 12-year-old me was a little ecstatic.
But it never occurred to me how horrible these conditions were until 2013 - the year the documentary "Blackfish" came out. I do not really know how I stumbled upon the film as a 14-year-old, but I did. And I don't think I have ever cried over a movie that much in my life, and I knew it was wrong. Sure, the film is a little biased, only showing trainers who have quit their jobs at Seaworld and other interviewees that were against Seaworld, but it showed the truth with video proof and statements from the courtroom.
After seeing that documentary in 2013, I kind of forgot about it until January 2017.
January 6 was the day that their most famous whale, Tilikum (Shamu), had passed away from a bacterial infection. Now, you might have to think long and hard about this one... but marine animals do not typically get bacterial infections in the wild. Why? Well, they do not live in tanks in the wild that have to be thoroughly cleaned on a daily basis.
Tilikum was 35 years old when he died. Orca whales live the equivalent of a human life. The average human life expectancy is between 79 and 90 years old. If we are going off of this statement, Tilikum died way before he was supposed to. And it's not just Tilikum who has died young in captivity. According to research done by the Orca Project in 2011, approximately 157 orcas have died in captivity, not including stillborns and miscarriages.
Seaworld did say that Tilikum's health "was improving", but this still makes no sense to me. If you have ever seen Tilikum or any male killer whale in captivity, you will notice that his dorsal fin is flopped to the side. This means that the whale is very unhealthy, another sign of why KILLER whales should not be in captivity.
Even if Seaworld cannot close its doors for good because of what they are doing, they should at least release the animals into the wild after a certain amount of time. This solution also might not be the best one because if the whales are so used to captivity, they are not going to be able to survive in the wild on their own. They will have no survival skills, especially if they are born into captivity.
Another point that was shocking to discover was that Seaworld covers up sunburn on the orcas by using black zinc oxide. While the whales are in captivity, they usually spend their time floating at the top of the enclosure with barely any shade in the hot Florida sun. In the ocean, killer whales spend about 95 percent of their time underneath the water, being able to find shade for themselves. Seaworld's deepest tank is 40 feet deep, clearly nothing compared to the endless ocean. And to hide the horrible sunburn from the public's eye, they cover it up with the zinc oxide that happens to match their skin.
No matter what Seaworld claims to be doing now by saving animals, the evidence is clear: Animals should not be held in captivity unless they are being rehabilitated to go back into the wild. How would you like it if you were told to stay in a cage your entire life with no freedom or no where else to go? You would not - it would feel unnatural to you. I hope Seaworld gets what they deserve by having their doors closed and turn it into something good, like the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. At Clearwater, they rehabilitate animals and then release them as soon as they are healed. This is something that I think all zoos and aquariums should do. Our earth needs these beautiful animals and captivity needs to stop taking them for granted.