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article imageOp-Ed: Humane Society video on the real Sea World

By Elizabeth Batt     Oct 11, 2012 in Environment
Washington - If you wonder why conservationists decry keeping orcas in artificial environments, this video should explain it. It disabuses any allegations by captive entertainment facilities that when orcas perform in parks, they are engaging in natural behaviors.
The newly released video created by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), features HSUS's marine mammal scientist Dr. Naomi Rose, award-winning author David Kirby, writer of Death at SeaWorld, and three former SeaWorld trainers who came together last July to view wild resident orcas in Puget Sound, Washington.
"A lot of people don't understand what real whales are," explains Naomi Rose in the video, which was uploaded to YouTube earlier today. "This is the real Sea World," she added, "this is where they are doing what nature meant them to do."
Samantha Berg, a former SeaWorld trainer and a member of Voice of the Orcas said:
What I thought I understood about whales as a SeaWorld trainer, and what I saw from just a few glimpses of them in the wild, I know nothing about whales.
Berg then confesses that as a SeaWorld trainer, the world's most popular marine mammal entertainment park taught her nothing about killer whales:
SeaWorld didn't teach me anything about whales, I wasn't teaching anything to anyone—nothing educational really, came out of my mouth at SeaWorld.
Resident "orca offspring remain with their mothers their entire lives," explains the Orca Network, "no other species, and not all orca communities, show lifetime association of mothers with both male and female offspring" like the resident whales do, they said at their website.
Dr. Jeffrey Ventre another former SeaWorld trainer explained that he never realized what captive whales were missing "until I saw the wild animals."
In his latest book Death at SeaWorld, David Kirby examined SeaWorld practices that the public usually doesn't get to see. This included the park's handling of their massive orca Tilikum, and his involvement in the deaths of three people.
"When I first heard about Tilikum, I thought he was a gruesome killer—a bloodthirsty maniac," said Kirby in the video. But once the author heard about the orca's capture and history he said, you "actually come to develop a tremendous amount of sympathy for Tilikum."
Tilikum was taken from his mother in Icelandic waters and thrown into a manmade artificial pod—first at Sealand of the Pacific, in Victoria, Canada and then at SeaWorld Orlando. At both facilities, Tilikum faced constant aggression from dominant females and took several beatings from other whales without an option to escape.
There are many who believe that the separation from his family combined with the bullying and the monotony of captivity, have made Tilikum the orca that he is today. Kirby is adamant that if Tilikum had been left in Iceland where he belonged, "he wouldn't have killed—not one person, not two people and certainly not three people."
Naomi Rose also expresses her own frustration over Tilikum's conditions:
"When I see these animals living in their families, living in their natural habitat, living natural lives on a daily basis and then I think about Tilikum held in a concrete tank for most of his life, I am so sad for Tilikum."
Tilikum measures 22.5 feet long and weighs around 12,000 pounds and is the largest orca in any of SeaWorld's facilities. Tilikum was captured in Berufjörður off the east coast of Iceland in November 1983 along with another male—Nandu, and a female—Samoa. Both of these orcas are now dead.
The bull orca was estimated to be between two to three years old when he was seized from the ocean. To date, he has been in captivity for 29 years.
The Humane Society's video clearly defines the life of the captive killer whale versus the life of their wild counterparts, and there is no comparison.
Watching orcas in their natural habitat is a beautiful and sometimes unexpected experience, as this video uploaded by DiscoverSookie shows:
Not only is whale watching free, for many it becomes a defining and intimate experience; one that you will never encounter at places such as SeaWorld.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Humane Society of the United States, naomi rose, voice of the orcas, david kirby, death at seaworld
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