The Shame of Shamu

seaworldFor anyone who may not know, a big thing for SeaWorld is its association with Killer Whales or Orca to give them their Sunday name.

So much so, their logo even incorporates this magnificent creature, as you can see.

SeaWorld has a general sea-related theme running through the park and the majority of the various shows and attractions, including sea-lions, dolphins and sea-otters, culminating in the main attraction; the Shamu Show. So called because of Shamu, the Killer Whale.

Shamu is of course a generic name, a brand if you like, as it can be any one of a number of Orca from the SeaWorld ‘cast’ that take the role in the show itself. Over the years, various Shamu have perished and been replaced with yet more. The show must go on.

I know a lot of the justification for SeaWorld’s activities centres around the rescue, research and conservation they do, and all that, but when it comes down to it, here we have a large corporation making a significant buck from keeping and breeding wild aquatic animals in captivity. Not only are they keeping them in an unnatural habitat, they are training them to perform for the pleasure of the general public.

Now, I have no doubt SeaWorld look after their Orca and other sea creatures. The trainers clearly know and love their animals. But let us not lose sight of the point here; SeaWorld are not a sea-life rescue charity. Yes, they may put something back, which is admirable but they are in it for the profit. Lots and lots of profit.

OrcaI’ve seen these wonderful creatures in the wild. I was fortunate enough to be able to go whale watching off the coast of Iceland a few years ago and was delighted and somewhat mesmerised to see a pod of healthy, wild Orca, including a mother and calf swimming alongside the boat.

The sheer size of these beasts, compared to us mere humans, in their natural habitat of millions of square miles of deep, deep ocean really was quite stunning.

With the advent of high-definition TV and the internet, documentaries and simulations, people now have ready access to what it’s like to see these animals. They can see them as often as they like, in their original habitat, doing what comes naturally. They no longer need to go to a SeaWorld or a zoo to see these creatures cooped up in a man-made prison made from reinforced glass and concrete that’s been moulded and coloured to look like ‘natural’ habitat.

Orca_droopThe bottom line is that a Killer Whale is a wild mammal, they do not belong in captivity. Evidence the extremely distressing sight of the various captive Orca with their sad-looking drooping dorsal fins swimming around in a big fish tank filled with startlingly blue water.

There are theories why the fins droop, one being that it’s from swimming on top of the water more than is natural, which a whale will do if the water is not deep enough. As a result, water pressure on each side of the fin, keeping it upright, is replaced by gravity and air meaning over time, it droops.

There are also attempts made to statistically justify the occurrence of the phenomenon by quoting percentages found in the wild. The simple fact is that almost all the ones I’ve seen in the wild are straight, and pretty much all the adult ones I’ve seen in captivity droop.

Now, before you say anything… Yes, I paid my bucks, I went in and it’s not the first time I’ve been. So yes, in a way I’m supporting what I’m railing against here, but this time I viewed it all though a different shade of glasses, and it wasn’t nice.

We should indeed be looking to do what we can to conserve our endangered species. However, I for one do not think keeping them captive for entertainment and profit is the way. Someone should step in and force the timetable of re-patriation of the wild animals to the wild – at cost to the current captors.

And don’t get me started on the Polar Bear…

Leave a Reply