Danielle LeVee, Global Animal
SAN DIEGO — SeaWorld’s 11-year-old killer whale, Nakai, acquired a serious wound to his lower jaw later last month. SeaWorld managed to keep the injury confidential, until now.
Later reports and photographs reveal the disturbing nature of the severe gash. A whistleblower divulged, “a dinner plate-sized chink of his lower mandible [has been] sheared off, exposing underlying tissues, and bone.” However, there is much debate to what may have caused the injury—a barrier in his enclosure or a confrontation with another whale.
Founder and principal scientist of the Orca Research Trust, Dr. Ingrid N. Visser, believes there is no question as to how Nakai was injured. He claims there are “puncture marks that match orca teeth spacing… a clear indication that an altercation between the orcas was involved.” However, SeaWorld denies such an explanation and asserts that the cause of the wound was accidental contact with the enclosure.
If the gash had been caused by a confrontation with other orcas, SeaWorld would be in direct violation of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA, the only Federal law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and sale, states, “Marine mammals that are not compatible must not be housed in the same enclosure. Marine mammals must not be housed near other animals that cause them unreasonable stress or discomfort or interfere with their good health”
Believing SeaWorld has defied the AWA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has filed a federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture that proclaims, “SeaWorld is fully aware of the social conflict, stress, agitation and resulting aggression and injury that it causes by housing these social and intelligent animals incompatibly, yet it continues to do so.”
Last week, PETA held a silent protest, picketing with signs and photos of injured Nakai to spread awareness of the sad living conditions of SeaWorld’s marine life.
Later reports have since emerged supporting the orca-altercation hypothesis. Individuals from private parties who had viewed an exclusive evening show have come forward, divulging how they witnessed the three orcas fighting. Trainers noticed the severity of Nakai’s wound later that same evening.
Nakai is currently receiving antibiotics and the veterinarians are pleased with the healing progress of his wound.
Like humans, not all whales get along. A social hierarchy exists within groups of whales. Their social interactions and relationships are very complicated and
placing nine unrelated killer whales into a confined space to perform tricks for food can cause much stress, frustration, and ultimately, mayhem. It would be shocking if these whales didn’t lash out against their treatment. Cetaceans are very intelligent creatures and deserve freedom.
SeaWorld has a long history of orca injuries and deaths—approximately 24 orca deaths in 25 years—and has notoriously reduced captive orcas’ median lifespans from 30-50 to approximately nine years—once again demonstrating that mammals are better off in the wild. Sign the petition requesting that SeaWorld free their releasable orcas.