This latest news (see BBC article for more) that a captive SeaWorld killer whale named Tilikum, attacked and killed its trainer is nothing new as this is the third time ‘Tilly’ has killed. This repeated aggressive behaviour is doubly concerning as it reveals the serious welfare risk to both people and animals for the sake of entertainment.
The ‘conservation interests’ that aquariums like SeaWorld claim to have at heart are a thin veil for this cruel and exploitative industry. Research has shown that these highly intelligent whales suffer both mentally and physically in captivity.
A tragic situation for all
Suzi Morris, UK Director for WSPA said: “The shocking news that an animal trainer has died after being attacked by a killer whale at the SeaWorld amusement park in Orlando, Florida, is a sad reminder of the inappropriateness of keeping these animals in captivity.”
“Killer whales are highly intelligent mammals that are taught to perform against their will by their human trainers. Marine mammals experience dreadful stress when forced to endure these unnatural interactions in their concrete prisons as it is not the way they would naturally behave in the wild. They do not enjoy ‘playing’ like this in this extremely traumatic environment.”
What's wrong with keeping killer whales in captivity?
There should not be a situation where a wild animal and a human interact in this way.
These forced conditions too frequently lead to trainers being injured or indeed killed by the captive wild animal.
The inevitable tragic occurrences we see in the news are a direct result of the animal displaying its natural behaviour under stress and in an unnatural environment.
In the wild, killer whales are continually on the move, sometimes traveling as much as 160 kilometers (99 mi) in a day and up to four generations may be seen travelling together as females can reach ninety years of age.
In captivity they have access to less than one ten-thousandth of 1% of the space available to them in their natural ocean environment and their lifespan is considerably shorter. No captive facility can adequately simulate vast ocean habitats or provide for their complex behavioural needs.
How you can help
Aquariums like this are built to attract the visiting public and make profits; they never put the needs of the animals first.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) campaigns for an end to the use of any animal in entertainment and urges you to actively discourage from visiting marine mammals in captivity and to instead help them flourish in the wild.
Suzi added: “WSPA believes it is tourism that keeps these cruel and unnecessary attractions that use animals for entertainment in business. The only way to stop this industry and force it to change is to stop paying and contributing to their success. Through responsible whale watching operations you can see these amazing animals in the wild where they belong.”