We need to dismiss the misplaced compassion of animal rights activists, again. If you were a killer whale raised by humans and used to daily human contact, would you benefit more from being placed in an expansive 100 million dollar enclosure similar to the provisions you were offered at birth, as a subadult and an adult animal or would you thrive in a seaside sanctuary exposed to an array of nature’s elements? Keep in mind that nature is both unforgiving and dangerous to a naive immune system, not to mention the exposure to degraded conditions of marine habitats. Dangerous contaminants and debris are just a few concerns. You would also be limited with respect to opportunites for human contact and interaction, which are huge reinforcements for the captive-born cetacean and all captive-living marine mammals.
When I worked on reintroduction and rewildling programs for the largest terrestrial mammal in the the Western Hemisphere—the wood bison—we went through great lengths to prepare the individual animals for life in the wild. In the case of these large bovids, nature was not far removed from captivity. With that stated, and from a soft release standpoint, you can’t afford to always be gentle in a reintroduction effort because nature is unforgiving and unkind. So we intentionally challenged animals with stressors that they may encounter in nature to condition them for a full release back into the wild.
SeaWorld would be negligent if they placed captive born animals in an open ocean enclosure. Can you imagine how shocking the experience would be for a captive living killer whale to suddenly be placed in the ocean. Do you think their first response would be, “Wow, freedom feels awesome.” History tells us their response is death. Learn about Keiko!
People jumped on the Blackfish bandwagon without much thought, but at a time in contemporary history when most people believe everything they hear and have limited ability to think critically, this should come as no surprise. A respect for science is at an all-time low, while everyone who watched the scathing and fictional SeaWorld docudrama is now a marine mammal expert.
Seaworld has changed ownership three times since it opened and the management and care of its animals has evolved and been shaped by cutting edge husbandry science. SeaWorld parks were regarded as the most esteemed zoological facilities among Association of Zoo and Aquarium accredited member institutions before the film aired. So how is it that one film has been able to have such influence over an entire industry–the marine mammal park industry? As one former SeaWorld trainer mentioned, the film was designed to make you feel and not think, and unfortunately the repercussions may influence the fate of captive born animals for the worse.
Disclaimer: I have not been paid by SeaWorld to advocate for their conservation programs. I simply believe in what they do.
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Dr. Jordan Schaul is an American zoologist, conservationist, journalist and animal trainer from Shaker Heights, Ohio.- Wikipedia
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