Every day, crowds gather around Seaworld parks to see dolphins jump through hoops, penguins ruffle their feathers, and they stare in awe at the park’s main attraction—the orca exhibit. The animals show off their impressive tricks, but there’s more to the show than meets the eye. Behind the smiling trainers and public pools, Seaworld harbors several secrets. Recent backlash from animal advocates and a stream of former trainers willing to share their experiences has forced many of these dark truths into the open. For the sake of profit, Seaworld has worked hard to keep the public unaware of what really happens behind the stage, but many people are fighting back. Here’s what the minds behind Seaworld don’t want you to know.
#1 – Many animals are kidnapped from the wild
Long nets attached to speedboats are stretched across large spans of ocean where orcas, beluga whales, and other aquatic animals feed and live. The animals are driven into these traps by airplanes and deafening explosions as marine “cowboys” herd them into terrified groups of thrashing fins. Mothers watch helplessly as their babies are lifted from their ocean homes and taken into captivity. This is the story of how many animal performers made it to Seaworld. They weren’t taken from the wild because of injuries or for their benefit, they were stolen from their homes so someone could make a profit.
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#2 – Animals live in unnatural conditions
In the wild, large aquatic animals like orcas and dolphins can swim up to 100 miles in a single day. They dive deep into the ocean for food, fun, and protection. But in captivity, they’re kept in small tanks that, to them, feel like crowded bathtubs. The stress of living in a small prison causes tempers to flair, and the animals often attack each other out of tension and anxiety. Former trainers have told stories of finding long strips of skin in the pools from orcas ripping into flesh, and vulnerable animals have been pushed out of the water by angry tank mates.
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#3 – Nearly all of the orcas have sunburn, but trainers hide it
An orca’s skin is as susceptible to sunburn as any human’s, and yet they’re kept in shallow tanks without shade or protection from the sun. In nature, orcas dive deep into the ocean where UV rays can’t reach them, but the tanks at Seaworld are nowhere near deep enough. The deepest tank is 40 feet and some are as shallow as 15 feet. Many orcas are longer than their tanks are deep. Trainers apply black zinc oxide to hide the incriminating evidence of their poor treatment.
BREAKING: SeaWorld has announced that it will end the breeding of captive orcas! To learn more and support the end of orcas in captivity, visit bit.ly/SeaWorldProgress.
#4 – Captive animals have shorter lifespans
While Seaworld once claimed their captive orcas live as long as those in the wild, an article published by Marine Mammal Science suggests otherwise. A study was conducted to discover the truth, and what they found proves that orcas forced to live in captivity die decades before their natural lifespan. According to the study, the median lifespan of wild orcas is around 61 years. At aquariums and parks like Seaworld, over half die before their 15th birthday.
#5 – It’s not only the orcas that suffer
The documentary Blackfish brought much-needed attention to the way Seaworld treats orcas, but killer whales aren’t the only animals suffering for the sake of profit. Seaworld campuses are also home to several species of dolphins, penguins, whales, sharks, sea turtles, and sea lions. Penguins live nearly unprotected from the audience that crowds their enclosure. Sea turtles, normally solitary animals, are forced to fight for space in overcrowded areas, and dolphins are bred unnaturally for the sake of having more performers.
Despite all of these things, Seaworld parks in San Antonio, San Diego, and Orlando welcome thousands of people through their doors every day. They’ve been treating their animals in the same inhumane ways for the past 50 years, and little has been done about it. If you want to help, join the campaign to send Seaworld’s captive animals to wildlife sanctuaries.
Featured Image Source: Facebook/Orca Rescue Foundation