Report from the Whale Jails

Tokitae being held at the Miami Seaquarium

Late last week Daniela, OCR’s Communications Director, posted a tragic video taken from above the Miami “Seaquarium” of Tokitae (a.k.a. ‘Lolita’), a captive orca. The video has stirred up a lot of emotions – and comments, because the captive plight of Tokitae is unbelievably cruel and unconscionable. Imagine yourself being confined to a shower stall for 50 years, being fed the same dead fish for every meal, and you can get an idea of the suffering endured. And it gets worse, but I won’t embellish…
Why these captive animals don’t rebel is a matter of speculation; are their complex minds locked in a Stockholm Syndrome? Are they able to reconcile their predicament in some advanced sort of meditation? Have they shut down some neuro-processing that would otherwise process their cruel circumstances? There is no way to know, and frankly, we should not even have to speculate about these things.
But here we are. There are some 63 known captive orcas about the world. All of them are used to make money. Lots of money. And all of them are suffering in this gruesome economy.
What can be done? Unfortunately, these animals are damaged. They suffer from “zoochosis” – exhibiting repetitive and obsessive behaviors. Most of them have really damaged teeth from chewing on their confinement, and also from their soft, repetitive diets. In many cases their teeth are in such bad shape, they need to be irrigated with disinfectants and antibiotics on a daily basis. There are also a number of “captive bred” orcas that do not have any cultural transference from the grandmothers that they would need to survive in nature. These conditions preclude them from being released directly into the wild.
There are some efforts to provide “retirement sanctuaries” for these animals – where they can be cared for and provided a much more accommodating habitat. OCR pal Michael Reppy from is preparing a sanctuary for “Corky,” one of the kidnapped orcas at Sea World (should they decide to release him). Orca Aware is an organization focused on captive orcas, and has attempted (unsuccessfully) to sue Miami Seaquarium for the release of Tokitae into larger, open ocean accommodations. 
Supporting these organizations is one way of working toward a resolution to these grisly scenarios. Another is to publicly shame Sea World, the Seaquarium, and any other facilities (whale jails) that use these majestic creatures for profit and ‘entertainment.’

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