Orcas or killer whales are the new apple of discord for SeaWorld marine-themed park and PETA. A new study revealing the life range of both captive orcas and wild orcas is the embodiment of this apple of discord.
For the study, the research team analyzed the life expectancy of killer whales and their calves in three communities. The first community is that comprised of killer whales held in captivity at SeaWorld. The second community under scrutiny was formed of Southern resident killer whales, while the third of Northern resident killer whales. These two are found in the Northwestern Pacific.
The study, featuring in the Journal of Mammalogy concludes that captivity-held orcas have almost the same life expectancy as free, wild orcas.
Thus, for the first group, the life expectancy was reported at 41.6 years. The second group had an average life expectancy of 29 years, while the third of 42.3 years.
On average, orca calves have a survival chance of 96.6 percent in the controlled environment at SeaWorld and 79.9 percent in the wild. The survival rate was calculated from a few months, up to two years.
Todd Robeck, VP of theriogenology at SeaWorld commented with view to the study:
“The results demonstrate unequivocally that killer whales in captivity have similar life expectancies to those in the wild and provide invaluable knowledge concerning normal reproductive patterns of the species”.
PETA however, does not see the results as unequivocal relevant. According to the organization, the study is biased, having been conducted by SeaWorld employees and the VP of biological programs for the Minnesota Zoo.
PETA believes that SeaWorld is merely trying to wash away previous accusations to the safety and well-suited environments for the killer whales held in captivity here. To support this claim, PETA has quoted a different study published in April 2015 that concluded the life range of captivity-held orcas is only 11.8 years. For reference, this study can be searched in the Marine Mammal Science journal.
In 2013 PETA featured a documentary titled “Blackfish” that took a look at the condition of killer whales at SeaWorld, posting that the marine-themed park is neglecting and abusing the orcas in their tanks.
The release of the documentary translated in attendance numbers dropping at SeaWorld. For reparations, the company changed the CEO and announced at the time that the killer whales would benefit from larger, more spacious tanks fitted for them.
Perhaps more independent studies should be sought to shed light on what the life expectancy of killer whales is, both in captivity and in the wild.
Photo Credits hngn.com