Captive Orcas: Chime In

The recent killer whale incident has created a lot of debate over the ethical issue of wild animals in captivity. I’d like to know where you stand on this issue.

Please take the poll below and tell a friend. I’ll be posting on this issue later in the month.

About Ark Lady

+ArkLady Enhances the Lives of Animals & Empowers the People Who Love Them! Join the armchair safari or connect via ARKlady website.


  1. I think it’s find to keep animals in captivity.

    But, there need to be rules and regulations to ensure captive animals are cared for humanely.

    Keeping animals in captivity is a wonderful opportunity for researchers to study their biology and behavior. Many species are nearly impossible to study under natural conditions. Zoos and other facilities are also a great way to educate the public about wildlife, animal behavior and conservation.

    However, there also need to be rules and regulations to ensure trainers and keepers remain safe while working with the more dangerous species. Sometimes, protective contact isn’t such a bad idea.


  2. Protected contact is a good thing for most people since only a few trainers seem to be super astute and when working with large animals it is dangerous no matter what you do.

    I have been around long enough to know that captivity is what gets people to connect and care but enforcement of the rules and regulations is key.

    Many people think studies could be done in the wild but it was a lot of captive work that created interest and just look at the difficulties with studying many of the marine species–really tough and funding is a big problem.

  3. Sheila Kaufman says

    Agree totally with every single point!! Being able to see animals close up is what gets people to dig into their pockets to support animal welfare in general, and what we experience for ourselves is what we internalize, remember, and care about. I work with wolves, sweet, loving, shy animals with one of the worst raps in natural history. I don’t know a better way for people to start to understand that than to see them up close and personal. Not that we let the public touch them, that wouldn’t be fair to them, but people do get to see our interactions with these animals we’ve known for their entire lives, and see them interact with one another. Many people come away changed, for the better.

  4. Thanks for sharing Sheila. The poll will be taken down pretty soon and I’ll be discussing the opinions. I was actually surprised at the data so far. Most people feel like you do and with all the adverse media–they make it sound like yours is a minority when it does not seem to show in the numbers of my readers.

  5. Here is a Sea World “update” on Tilikum. Mostly tells you nothing much:

    Q. How is a day in the life of Tilikum different now?

    In most respects Tilikum’s day is not much different at all. We are continuing the level of interaction and socialization he’s always had; we’re just making sure we do so from a safe distance. He still has access to all of the pools in the 7 million-gallon Shamu Stadium complex, enjoys social interactions with the other whales and is participating in numerous training, play and exercise sessions throughout each day.

    Second only to the safety of our animals is ensuring the highest standard of care for our animals. One of the most important things we do is to take care of whales’ health and mental stimulation. Part of this stimulation is making sure they have a variety of different experiences each day.

    We have a deep love for all of our animals our trainers are continually devising ways to keep them all engaged and stimulated safely.

    Q. What type of interactions can you do with Tilikum from a distance?

    The most important consideration is variety; no day is ever the same. That keeps the whales engaged, always learning new behaviors. We vary what types of sessions we do each day, as well what each session includes. Fun experiences we did just today with him include giving him ice or toys filled with fish, a 120-pound, 6-foot diameter plastic Frisbee, and watching us paint pictures through the underwater viewing panels.

    Tilikum also enjoys having his skin rubbed. Right now we are not touching him with our hands, so, instead of using our fingers, we use a powerful water hose — just like a giant water massage — and brushes as extensions of our hands. So he is still getting everything he is used to and everything he enjoys, just in a new and different way.

    Our veterinarians still have access to Tilikum to care for him. All of our whales are trained to voluntarily give us their tail flukes to obtain blood samples; we’ve just trained Tilikum now do it from a different position now to ensure everyone’s safety.

    Q. Is he around any other whales?

    Absolutely. Socialization with the other whales is a big part of these animals’ day and we would never change that.

    Q. What challenges have you had as a trainer?

    A. Our entire environment has changed for us and that’s a challenge. But you don’t make animal training a career unless you love challenges. Right now, we are training new behaviors. We used to interact very closely with Tilikum, but now maintain a safe distance. Throughout these new approaches, Tilikum is responding positively and learning new behaviors very quickly, which are great indicaters he is content.

  6. The problem that i find is that this creature has killed before, Surely it should not of been placed around humans again with this kind of history? it should of been released back into the wild a long time ago.

  7. Uh, John?

    Perhaps you missed that he is a predator? Also, captive orcas (or any captive wild animal for that matter) are not good candidates for release.

  8. The more I hear and read about animals in cavity as a whole, the more I am thinking it’s a good idea.

    The consortium held in Qatar last week and the week before was attended by representatives of 179 countries. They discussed endangered wildlife and fauna and these were the results: China still loves shark fin soup regardless of the brutality and impact it is having on them. They also love (and buy) any part that comes from a tiger. The fact that there are only about 2500 left in the wild is apparently not their problem. They stated in the meetings that they will ignore any sanctions placed on either animal. Canada will still legally shoot 300 polar bears a year, and although they admit that the bears are disappearing, they reason that global warming is having a huge impact on them anyway, so what is 300 more? Japan says that the Blue Fin tuna makes the best sushi, so they will be ignoring any sanctions to stop fishing for and buying them. They went so far as to say that any sanction on Blue Fins represents an attack on their very culture.

    Poachers are now armed gangs with AK-47s and are killing game wardens, park workers, and anybody else that gets in their way. Interpol will now be stepping in to try to help stop them, although they are not sure how they will do this.

    I am really thinking that we may want to catch MORE animals and keep them in zoos, aquariums, etc. just so when the free ones have been hunted and killed to extinction, our children and grandchildren can at least see them somewhere on the earth.

  9. Unfortunately different cultural viewpoints, education levels, political complications, and financial influences make conservation a nightmare.

    Most people have no idea just how difficult some of the issues can be.