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Whales In Captivity Essay

1180 words - 5 pages

“… building a tank the size of Rhode Island wouldn’t be large enough for a six-ton male killer whale such as Tilikum, an animal capable of swimming 100 miles a day,” states an anonymous whale expert. Whales have been in captivity since 1861 when P.T. Barnum displayed the first live whale that was captured in Canada. However, Barnum had no idea how to care for the mammal and it died after only a week in captivity. (Animal Legal and Historical Center, 2014) Being up close with killer whales could give us some clues about how they interact with each other, including physical behavior, their dialect, and how their pods work together as a family unit. However, what we are finding is that whales who belong in the wild are suffering in captivity. Killer whales have no record of ever harming a human being in the wild. In captivity, there have been many incidents of killer whales harming or even killing their trainers. What would cause them to do this in captivity, but not in the wild? They have been known to resort to aggression toward themselves and each other, in what scientist believe to be a stress induced behavior. (Animal Legal and Historical Center, 2014) Evidence against having these wild animals in captivity is increasing and we need reevaluate the value of capturing and holding killer whales for our educational purposes, enjoyment, and profit.
Captivity is a term that has a range of definitions. The least restrictive would be an enclosed area that attempts to meet the physical social, physical, and medical needs of these animals. The most restrictive provide limited area for movement, social interaction, and does not provide needed regular medical attention. When referring to dialect in killer whales we are talking about how they communicate in their pods. Each pod has its own unique, individual dialect. Translation does not cross from pod to pod.
There is so much we can learn from Orcas in captivity. Biologists have limited understanding about killer whales in the wild. We cannot observe them 24/7 and we cannot live in their environment. Being with these mammals up-close could give us some clues about how they interact with each other. This would include physical behavior, their dialect, and how their families work together. These are things we would never have to chance to do with the killer whales in their natural habitat. (Teen Inc., 2010) However, when a whale is placed in captivity it is stripped of its ability to communicate with the whales in its pod. In essence it would be like placing someone in a completely different culture with no means of communicating with anyone around them. Imagine the stress of not being able to communicate any needs or feelings with those around you.
Marine parks around the world introduce the public to an animal that they would never encounter on their own. Seeing the majestic whales perform and listening to what the trainers share about the killer whale educates large groups of people about...

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