tags: Tilikum, Tillikum, Tilly, Orcinus orca, Killer Whale, SeaWorld, Sea World, Orlando, Florida, whales, animals, news, behavior, streaming video
Are orcas too brainy for captive life? Should they all live only in "the wild"? This video is only the beginning of the debate .. what do you think?
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We KNOW whales to be "brainy"...
...so, what's the surprise in seeing a sentient and emotionally
aware Beeing ticking off...?
And why would we care?
We do the same to our own kin with any cheapo
excuse you can come up with!
With the very same results as I might add.
"to somehow relate to" and "beeing related to..."
are two very different statements.
Parrots are highly intelligent, yet we keep them in captivity.
I'm not sure that brainyness is relevant here. Of more importance probably is the social nature of the animal, if we're concerned primarily with its welfare. Indeed: one might argue that the more intelligent an animal is the better the chance of being able to find something to interest it in its artificial environment.
Zoos of all forms are somewhat problematic. Whilst they can have valuable scientific roles, and can help preserve - or even restore threatened species there are some animals which it's hard to imagine being entirely content in captivity. Large, social creatures would fall into that category, I think.
It seems ridiculous to maintain that Killer Whales are kept for any scientific purpose. They may be somewhat endangered in the wild but the idea of captive breeding for future release is absurd, and not what is being done, anyway. If they couldn't be taught tricks and didn't tolerate humans the marine zoos wouldn't be interested in them. After all, you don't see many sailfish in captivity and they're just as interesting and beautiful.
I don't think that there's anything inherently wrong with keeping animals for people to look at, but it's important to pick the right animals. Either those which will be reasonably content and healthy in captivity or for which there is a clear scientific or breeding purpose. A well managed zoo can be a fascinating experience, especially for kids, which may foster an interest in wildlife.
Since we can study them in the wild, I think that's the preferred option. Tagging them and tracking them by satellite, or getting in the water and videoing them in the ocean is better. It gives us "in context" information about them in their environment, and it doesn't imprison them. I can see holding them temporarily when nursing injured ones back to health, or in instances when it saves the animal's life.
But other than that, hard questions have to be asked: why are they captive - so they can balance a beach ball on their nose? I think that's the wrong motivation.
Humans are reaching the limit with how far we can go just wiping things out in the search for a buck, or as somebody said, killing things and calling it "progress".
You want me to hold you in a tank so you can balance a ball on your nose while I charge people to look at you?
If not, then I think you have your answer here.
Obviously jumping through hoops is not scientific research. I have no objection to research and education, I do for a circus act.
You can youtube all kinds of orca behavior which shows seals being snatched off ice or being tossed in the air or drowned underwater. Human trainers exist at the whim of the orca. But they are still wild animals and when they show behavior similar to what is shown in the wild, we should not be shocked. What's amazing is how few people have been killed. And for what? This is the same as Siegfried and Roy.
People get killed by cows too on a regular basis. I doubt this is a matter of brain but of size. A big animal can kill you by mistake or by a moment of anger. How many dog owners get bitten some time by their dog? Now imagine the dog had jaws like an orca...
Instead of keeping orcas in pools that really are too small for animals their size it would be interesting to try to recruit a pod of wild orcas and see if you can make them perform for some extra food. There is at least one case of an orca that spent years cooperating with whalers in exchange for the leftovers, so it might not be entirely impossible.
This is not an easy yes or no answer due to the complexity of the issue which most people naively believe to be simple.
The ethical issue is one that can be debated over and over again but the reality has more to do with the laws of ownership and the welfare of the animals both in captivity and in the wild.
I've been blogging on the issues of why the incident might have happened, questions to ask, and will probably venture into the same question this month but it is a daunting task.