Captive killer whales

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search
Orca show at Sea World San Diego

Captive killer whales are large predatory marine mammals that were first captured live and displayed in exhibitions in the 1960s, and soon became popular attractions at public aquariums and aquatic theme parks due to their intelligence, trainability, striking appearance, playfulness in captivity, and sheer size. However, the captive environment usually bears little resemblance to their wild habitat, and the social groups that the killer whales are put into are foreign to those found in the wild. As of 13 August 2013, there are 45 orcas in captivity worldwide, 32 of which are captive-born. The practice of keeping killer whales in captivity is controversial.[1]


Transient orcas near Unimak Island, eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska

The killer whale (Orcinus orca) is the largest species of the dolphin family. It is found in all the world's oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to warm, tropical seas. Killer whales are intelligent, versatile and opportunistic predators. Some populations feed mostly on fish, and other populations hunt marine mammals, including sea lions, seals, walruses and even large whales. They are considered an apex predator, having no natural predators in their environment. There are up to five distinct killer whale types, some of which may be separate races, subspecies or even species. Killer whales are highly social; some populations are composed of matrilineal family groups, which are the most stable of any animal species.[2] The sophisticated social behavior, hunting techniques, and vocal behavior of killer whales have been described as manifestations of culture.[3]

Although killer whales are not an endangered species, some local populations are considered threatened or endangered due to pollution by PCBs, depletion of prey species, captures for marine mammal parks, conflicts with fishing activities, acoustic pollution, shipping vessels, stress from whale-watching boats, and habitat loss.[4][5][6]

Capture and breeding[edit]

Killer whales are large, active and intelligent. Males range from 6 to 9.7 m (20 to 32 ft) and weigh over 8 tonnes (8.8 tons), while females range from 5 to 7 m (16 to 23 ft) and weigh 3 to 5 tonnes (3.3 to 5.5 tons).[7] It is extremely difficult to capture killer whales and to provide a healthy environment for the captives. Early attempts in the 1960s caused many injuries and deaths. However, with experience the teams who specialized in the business became more adept and post-capture survival rates improved. Live captures peaked in the early 1970s, but have become increasingly rare as the marine parks have learned how to maintain theme park populations through captive breeding and artificial insemination.

North Eastern Pacific Captures[edit]

The dorsal fin and saddle patch of a resident killer whale in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. It may be either an adult female, or a juvenile of either sex.

The first North Eastern Pacific killer whale (Wanda) was captured in November 1961 by a collecting crew from Marineland of the Pacific in Los Angeles. The 5.2 m (17 ft) orca was placed in a tank at the aquarium, where she repeatedly crashed into the walls. She died the following day.[8][9] The next killer whale captured, Moby Doll, had been harpooned and shot in 1964 and survived for three months when brought back for display to Vancouver, British Columbia.[10] The third capture for display occurred in June 1965 when William Lechkobit found a 22 foot (6.7m) male orca in his floating salmon net that had drifted close to shore near Namu, British Columbia. The killer whale was sold for $8,000 to Ted Griffin, a Seattle public aquarium owner. Named after his place of capture, Namu was the subject of a film that changed some people's attitudes toward orcas[11]

During the 1960s and early 1970s, nearly 70 killer whales were taken from Pacific waters for exhibition. The Southern Resident community of the Northeast Pacific lost 48 of its members to captivity. By 1976, only 80 killer whales were left in the community, which remains endangered. With subsequent captures, the theme parks learned more about avoiding injury during capture and subsequent care of killer whales, and discovered that they could be trained to perform tricks, a great attraction to visitors. As commercial demand increased, growing numbers of Pacific orcas were captured, peaking in 1970.[12]

A turning point came with a mass capture of orcas from the L-25 pod in August 1970 at Penn Cove, Puget Sound off the coast of Washington. The Penn Cove capture became controversial due to the large number of wild killer whales that were taken (seven) and the number of deaths that resulted: four juveniles died, as well as one adult female who drowned when she became tangled in a net while attempting to reach her calf. In his interview for the CNN documentary "Blackfish", former diver John Crowe told how all five of the whales had their bellies slit open and filled with rocks, their tails weighted down with anchors and chains, in an attempt to conceal the deaths.[13] The facts surrounding their deaths were discovered three months later after three of the dead whales washed ashore on Whidbey Island. Public concern about the welfare of the animals and the impact of captures on the wild pods led to the Marine Mammal Protection Act being passed in 1972 by the US Congress, protecting orcas from being harassed or killed, and requiring special permits for capture. Since then, few wild orcas have been captured in Northeastern Pacific waters.[14][15]

Lolita, originally known as Tokitae, was a survivor of the Penn Cove captures. She was about six years old at time of capture and is now the oldest captive killer whale. Lolita is the subject of the documentary Lolita: Slave to Entertainment, released in 2008.[16] Various groups still argue that Lolita should be released into the wild.[17][18][19]

Icelandic captures[edit]

Keiko is weighed as he is loaded into his specially made transport tank at the Oregon State Aquarium, on 9 September 1998.

When the US Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 effectively stopped the capture of Pacific orcas, exhibitors found an area more tolerant of killer whale captures in Iceland. Icelandic herring fishermen had traditionally seen killer whales as competitors for their catch, and sale of live killer whales promised a large new source of income. 48 live killer whales captured in Icelandic waters were exported to marine parks between 1976 and 1988. The capture process was based on luring the orcas by dumping leftovers from herring fishing in front of the pod, capturing the killer whales in a purse seine net, selecting desirable animals and hauling them on board in a specially designed frame, then placing them in foam-lined boxes full of seawater.[20] However, restrictions on US killer whale import permits and advances in captive breeding programs meant that the market never became as large as expected. Growing concern from conservationists and animal rights activists has caused the Icelandic government to limit the number of orcas that may be captured each year.[21]

Perhaps the best known of the Icelandic captives is Keiko, caught in 1979 and sold to the Icelandic aquarium in Hafnarfjörður. Three years later, he was sold to Marineland Canada, where he first started performing for the public and developed skin lesions indicative of poor health. He was then sold to Reino Aventura (now named Six Flags Mexico), an amusement park in Mexico City, in 1985. He was the star of the 1993 movie Free Willy, the publicity from which led to an effort by Warner Brothers Studio to find him a better home. Using donations from the studio, Craig McCaw and millions of school children, the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon spent over $7 million to construct facilities to return him to health with the hope of returning him to the wild. He was airlifted to his new home in January 1996, where he soon regained weight. In September 1998, he was flown to Klettsvik Bay in Vestmannaeyjar in Iceland, and gradually reintroduced to the wild, returning to the open sea in July 2002. Keiko died from pneumonia in December 2003. He had become lethargic and had a loss of appetite. He beached himself in the morning and died aged 27 years.[22][23]

North Western Pacific captures[edit]

1,477 killer whales were hunted in Japanese waters between 1948 and 1972, 545 of them around Hokkaido. Killer whale encounters in Japanese waters are now rare.[24] In 1997 a group of ten killer whales was corralled by Japanese fisherman banging on iron rods and using water bombs to disorient the animals and force them into a bay near Taiji, Wakayama. They were held in the bay for two days before being auctioned to Japanese marine parks. Five animals were released, and the other five transported via road or sea to the aquariums. All five are dead.[25]

The first live killer whale captured in Russia was an 18-foot (5.5 m)-long female estimated to be about six years old, captured off the Pacific coast of the Kamchatka district on 26 September 2003. She was transferred over 7,000 miles (11,000 km) to a facility owned by the Utrish Dolphinarium on the Black Sea, where she died in October 2003 after less than a month in captivity.[26]

Killer whales born in captivity[edit]

The majority of today's theme-park killer whales were born in captivity: 32 out of 45. Kalina, a female orca born in September 1985 at SeaWorld Orlando, was the first captive orca calf to survive more than two months. Kalina's mother is an Icelandic female named Katina, and her father, Winston (also known as Ramu III), was a Pacific Southern Resident, making Kalina an Atlantic/Pacific hybrid — a unique situation that would not have occurred in the wild.[27]

The first killer whale conceived through artificial insemination was Nakai who was born to Kasatka at the SeaWorld park in San Diego in September 2001.[28] A female killer whale named Kohana, the second killer whale conceived in this manner, was born at the same park eight months later.[29] Artificial insemination lets park owners maintain a healthier genetic mix in the small groups of killer whales at each park while avoiding the stress of moving killer whales for breeding purposes.[30]

The practice of exhibiting killer whales born in captivity is less controversial than of retaining free-born orcas, since the captive-born orcas have known no other world and may not be able to adapt to life in the wild. Captive breeding also promises to reduce incentives to capture wild orcas.[31] However, in January 2002 the Miami Seaquarium stated that captive orcas are dying faster than they are being born, and as it is virtually impossible to obtain orcas captured from the wild, the business of exhibiting captive orcas may eventually disappear.[32]

Killer whale captivity locations[edit]

A killer whale show at SeaWorld, San Diego, California

As of 5 June 2013, orcas in 11 facilities in North and South America, Europe and Asia provide entertainment for theme park visitors.[33] Building the physical infrastructure of the parks requires major capital expenditure, but as the star attractions the orcas are arguably the most valuable and irreplaceable assets.


SeaWorld is a chain of marine mammal parks in the United States and is the largest owner of captive killer whales in the world. The parks feature killer whale, sea lion, and dolphin shows and zoological displays featuring various other marine animals. The parks' icon is Shamu, the orca.[34] Parks include:

There was also a fourth park named Seaworld Ohio, but the park closed down in 2001.

The killer whale show at the Miami Seaquarium starring Lolita.

Miami Seaquarium[edit]

The Miami Seaquarium is an aquarium located on Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay near downtown Miami, Florida. A subsidiary of the privately held Wometco Enterprises, the Seaquarium was the first major marine park attraction in South Florida, opening in 1955. In addition to marine mammals, the Miami Seaquarium houses fish, sharks, sea turtles, birds and reptiles.[35] It is home to Lolita (aka Tokitae), the oldest killer whale in captivity.[36]

Marineland Canada[edit]

Marineland is a privately held themed amusement and animal exhibition park in the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Owing to its proximity to the falls and other natural park areas and its blend of animal attractions and rides, it is one of the main tourist destinations in Niagara Falls, in Ontario, Canada.[37]

Marineland (Antibes)[edit]

Marineland is an animal exhibition park in Antibes, France, founded in 1970. It receives more than 1,200,000 visitors per year, and is the only French sea park featuring two cetacean species: killer whales and dolphins. The park is a subsidiary of Parques Reunidos, a Spanish group with properties in Europe, Argentina and the USA.

Loro Parque[edit]

Loro Parque (Spanish for "parrot park") is a zoo located on the outskirts of Puerto de la Cruz on Tenerife. The park has the world's largest indoor penguin exhibition, the longest shark tunnel in Europe, and is one of only two parks in Europe to house killer whales.[38]

In February 2006, Loro Parque received four young killer whales; two males, Keto (born in 1995) and Tekoa (born in 2000), and two females, Kohana (2002) and Skyla (2004) on loan from SeaWorld. Sea World still maintains ownership of these animals, and has sent its own professionals, including trainers, curators & veterinarians, to supplement the staff at Loro Parque. In 2004 and 2005, before the killer whales were brought to Loro Parque, eight animal trainers from the park were sent to Sea World parks in Texas and Florida for training. However, only half of these trainers are currently employed in Orca Ocean, Loro Parque's facility for the killer whales. None of the subsequent employees hired have been sent to Sea World parks for training.[39] On 24 December 2009, orca trainer Alexis Martinez, age 29, was killed during a Christmas show rehearsal when he was attacked by one of the killer whales, presumably Keto, resulting in his drowning. He had worked at Loro Parque since 2004. From this date the trainers no longer enter the water with the orcas during live shows.

Mundo Marino[edit]

Mundo Marino, located south of Buenos Aires in the coastal town of San Clemente del Tuyú, Argentina, is the largest aquarium in South America. Mundo Marino is home to one male killer whale, Kshamenk, that was stranded, or force-stranded, in 1992.[40] Kshamenk is estimated to have been around 4 years old when captured.

Other Marine Exhibitions[edit]

Captivity conditions[edit]

Tank size and water conditions[edit]

Legal requirements for tank size vary greatly from country to country. In the US, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS),[41] under the USDA, sets standards for the care of captive killer whales. APHIS defines the average length of an adult killer whale as 24 feet (7.315 meters), based on which they require a pool with a minimum horizontal dimension (the diameter of a circular pool of water) of twice that length or 48 feet (14.63 meters) and a minimum depth of 12 feet (3.66 m), giving a minimum volume of 615 m3. A pool of this size may hold two killer whales under its rules.[42] Swiss regulations require a larger minimum volume: 400 m2 x 4.0 m deep for two killer whales, or 1,600 m3. The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) goes further, and recommends 1918 m3 for two killer whales.[43] The US exhibitors of captive killer whales belong to the AMMPA, but exhibitors in other countries do not.[44]

The tanks in most marine parks are considerably larger than the minimum sizes required by regulations. However, the Miami Seaquarium has been criticized for the small size of the tank holding their sole killer whale, Lolita, which is less than two of her body lengths wide at any point. Building a new tank would be costly and there is little prospect of replacing the aging Lolita.[45]

Nutrition and medical care[edit]

On average, an adult killer whale in the wild may eat about three to four percent of their body weight daily,[46] or as much as 227 kg (500 lb) of food for a six-ton male. Their diet in the wild depends on what is available, and may include fish, walruses, seals, sea lions, penguins, squid, sea turtles, sharks and whales.[47] According to SeaWorld, each of their adult orcas receives 140 to 240 pounds of food per day, primarily herring, capelin, salmon and mackerel. To maintain their alertness, the killer whales are fed at sporadic intervals throughout the day (as would happen in the wild) and feeding is often combined with training and shows. Each batch of fish is carefully tested to determine its nutritive composition, and each killer whale's weight, activity and health is carefully monitored to determine any special dietary requirements.[48]

Killer whales have been the subject of extensive medical research since their first capture, and much is known about prevention and treatment of the common viral and bacterial infections, including vaccination and use of antibiotics and other medicines.[49] Allometric principles and therapeutic drug monitoring are used to accurately determine the doses and avoid toxicity.[50]


Killer whales are intelligent and can be trained to perform spectacular behaviors. Trainers usually work on a one-on-one basis with an individual killer whale. In addition to training, the trainer is responsible for the health of their orca, preparing food and documenting their health, diet, and behavior. The trainer must patiently build a relationship of trust with the animal as they teach it show behavior, which takes years of hard work.[51] The trainer cannot force a killer whale to do anything, but must find ways to make participation enjoyable within a relationship based upon mutual respect, including recognition that the killer whale is one of the ocean's apex predators.[52] All of the behaviors, including jumps and slides, are natural, so training involves teaching the killer whale to perform the behaviors on the trainer's command. This is done by breaking down the behaviors into simple components and using a system of reward (called "positive reinforcement" by trainers) by giving the killer whale food or other reinforcement when they are successful at each stage, and withholding it when they are not. Food deprivation is not permitted in training, all animals receive all of their daily food requirements just not when they are unsuccessful in a behaviour. It is the trainers job to ensure the animal succeeds to get its food or change the behaviour to something a little easier until it has learnt the new behaviour. [53] Secondary reinforcement—things not essential to life, such as play time, tactile rewards and fun games—can also be used to reward the animal.[54]

Issues with captivity[edit]

The practice of keeping killer whales in captivity is controversial, and organisations such as the World Society for the Protection of Animals and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society campaign against the captivity of killer whales. Orcas in captivity may develop physical pathologies, such as the dorsal fin collapse seen in 60–90% of captive males.

The captive environment bears little resemblance to their wild habitat, and the social groups that the killer whales are put into are foreign to those found in the wild.[1] Critics claim that captive life is stressful due to small tanks, false social groupings and chemically altered water. Captive killer whales have been observed acting aggressively toward themselves, other killer whales, or humans, which critics say is a result of stress.

Disease and reduced lifespan[edit]

The lifespan of killer whales in captivity is substantively shorter, with many having only lived into their 20s. Several studies published in scientific journals show that the average mortality rate for captive killer whales are approximately three times higher than in the wild.[55] However, there are examples of orcas living longer, including Corky II, Kiska, and Lolita/Tokitae who are over 40 years of age.[56] In the wild, female killer whales have an average lifespan of 50 years and can live up to 80–90 years. The average lifespan for males in the wild is 30 years, but some live up to 50–60 years.[57]

SeaWorld San Antonio's 14-year-old Taku, born in captivity, died unexpectedly on 17 October 2007. Trainers were notified that Taku had been acting differently a week before his death. The necropsy determined that Taku had died from a sudden case of pneumonia, a common illness among captive orcas.[58][59] It was also discovered that Taku was infected by the West nile virus, transmitted by mosquitos.[60]

The original Namu developed a bacterial infection which damaged his nervous system, causing him to become nonresponsive to people. During his illness he charged full-speed into the wire mesh of his pen, thrashed violently for a few minutes and then died.[61]

Dorsal fin collapse[edit]

This male (Tilikum), at SeaWorld Orlando, has a collapsed dorsal fin.

Most male captive killer whales, and some females, have a dorsal fin that is partially or completely collapsed to one side. Several theories exist as to why this happens. A dorsal fin is held erect by collagen, which normally hardens in late adolescence.

Scientists from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have reported that "the collapsed dorsal fins commonly seen in captive killer whales do not result from a pathogenic condition, but are instead thought to most likely originate from an irreversible structural change in the fin's collagen over time. Possible explanations for this include: (1) alterations in water balance caused by the stresses of captivity dietary changes, (2) lowered blood pressure due to reduced activity patterns, or (3) overheating of the collagen brought on by greater exposure of the fin to the ambient air."[62] According to SeaWorld's website, another reason for the fin to bend may be the greater amount of time that captive whales spend at the surface, where the fin is not supported by water pressure.[63] The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society says that dorsal fin collapse is largely explained by captive killer whales swimming in small circles due to the inadequate space in which they have to swim.[64] SeaWorld, however, claims that "Neither the shape nor the droop of a whale's dorsal fin are indicators of a killer whale's health or well-being."[63]

Collapsed or collapsing dorsal fins are rare in most wild populations and usually result from a serious injury to the fin, such as from being shot or colliding with a vessel.[62] After the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, the dorsal fins of two male resident killer whales who had been exposed to the oil collapsed, and the animals subsequently died. In 2002, the dorsal fin of a stranded killer whale showed signs of collapse after three days but regained its natural upright appearance as soon as the orca resumed strong normal swimming upon release.[62]

Although it has been reported that seven out of 30 (23%) wild adult male killer whales from New Zealand waters have bent dorsal fins,[63][65] this figure includes a variety of dorsal fin abnormalities, including rippled or twisted fins, in addition to simple one-sided collapse.[66] The New Zealand study noted that, in addition to the high prevalence of dorsal fin deformities, two of the 30 adult males in this population also had prolific body scarring that were consistent with bite marks from other killer whales.[66] The prevalence of dorsal fin deformities is 4.7% among adult male orcas in British Columbia and 0.57% in Norway.[66] Amongst the well-studied wild killer whales off the coast of British Columbia, the total rate of dorsal fin collapse is around 1%.[67][68]

Attacks on humans[edit]

There have been no confirmed attacks on humans, fatal or otherwise, by wild killer whales.[69] Two recorded instances include a boy charged while swimming in Helm Bay (in southeast Alaska) and orcas trying to tip ice floes on which a dog team and photographer of the Terra Nova Expedition were standing.[70] In the case of the boy in Alaska, the boy was splashing in a region frequented by harbor seals, leading to speculation that the killer whales misidentified him as prey and aborted their attack. In the case of the Terra Nova expedition, there is speculation that the seal-like barking of the sled dogs may have triggered the killer whales' hunting curiosity.

In 2004 a video purporting to show a jumping orca capsizing a Korean individual's kayak circulated the Internet; according to folklorist David Mikkelson of, this is a fake originally produced as an advertisement for the sports drink Powerade.[71]

Killer whales in the wild, however, are much less likely to attack people than are their captive counterparts, who have been known to attack either their handlers or intruders. Following one such attack on a trainer in 2006, ABC News reported that killer whales have attacked nearly two dozen people since the 1970s.[72] Studies of killer whales in the wild have identified at least two categories, based on their territorial range. Those living in a limited area, such as Puget Sound or the Strait of Juan de Fuca, are termed "resident" whales, while "transient" whales roam the oceans at will. These "transient" types have to be more aggressive, in order to assert themselves in a wide range of territories and to prey on a variety of different species. This increased aggressiveness does not disappear in captivity.[73] Furthermore, captivity itself could aggravate aggressive behavior, resulting in a "cetacean equivalent of anxiety disorder."[74]

Captive killer whale attacks on humans seem to fall mostly into the categories of: biting during feeding, ramming in the water, and holding under water. Killer whales biting trainers during feeding or shows is generally the mildest form of attack seen, but can escalate to an animal dragging the trainer underwater and holding them there until they lose consciousness and/or drown. Trainers who have had killer whales ram into them in the water tend to suffer from a range of injuries including internal bleeding, broken bones, ruptured organs, and heart attack.[75]

Tilikum, a male killer whale, was captured near Iceland in November 1983 at about two years of age. Tilikum was involved in an incident that resulted in the death of a trainer in 1991. 20-year-old Keltie Byrne, who worked at SeaLand, slipped and fell into the tank with the killer whales. Tilikum and two other killer whales grabbed her in their mouths and tossed her to each other, drowning Byrne. [76][77] Tilikum was at the scene of another death on 6 July 1999. A park guest was found floating in Tilikum’s pool, apparently killed by a combination of hypothermia and drowning. The guest had visited SeaWorld the previous day, stayed after the park closed, and evaded security to enter the killer whale tank.[78] On 24 February 2010, after a noontime performance at Sea World, Orlando, Florida, Tilikum killed Dawn Brancheau during a training session with the killer whale. Tilikum is believed to have killed Brancheau due to a missed cue during the afternoon show which resulted in Tilikum not being rewarded for completing a behavior successfully. Brancheau died shortly thereafter from drowning and multiple severe crush traumatic injuries as well having been scalped and had a complete avulsion of her arm.[79] This latest incident with Tilikum has reawakened a heated discussion about the effect of captivity on the killer whale's behavior, and in particular about the future of Tilikum in the context of SeaWorld.[80]

Kasatka, a female killer whale who was captured off the coast of Iceland in October 1978 at the age of one year, has shown aggression toward humans. Kasatka tried to bite a trainer during a show in 1993, and again in 1999.[81] On 30 November 2006, Kasatka grabbed a trainer and dragged him underwater during their show. The trainer suffered puncture wounds to both feet and a torn metatarsal ligament in his left foot.[82][83][84]

On Christmas Eve of 2009, 29-year old Alexis Martinez of Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain was crushed to death in the jaws of Keto. After spending two and a half minutes at the bottom of the 12-meter deep main pool, his body was retrieved but he was never able to be revived. The park initially characterized the death as an "accident" and claimed that the body of the young man showed no signs of violence, however the subsequent autopsy report stated that Martinez died due to grave injuries sustained by an orca attack, including multiple compression fractures, tears to vital organs, and the bitemarks of the animal on his body.[85] During the investigation into the death of Alexis Martinez, it came to light that the park had also mischaracterized to the public a 2007 incident with Tekoa, the other male, and claimed it was also an "accident" rather than an attack.[86]

Aggression between captive orcas[edit]

One infamous incident of killer whale aggression took place in August 1989, when the dominant female Icelandic killer whale at SeaWorld San Diego, Kandu V, attempted to "rake" a female newcomer named Corky. Raking is a way orcas show dominance by forcefully scratching at another with their teeth. Kandu charged at Corky, attempting to rake her, missed and continued swimming into the back pool, where she ended up ramming the wall, rupturing an artery in her jaw. The crowd was quickly ushered out of the stadium. Forty-five minutes later Kandu V sank to the bottom of the pool and died.[87][88]

Kanduke, a male captured from T pod in British Columbia, Canada in August 1975, often fought with a younger Icelandic male named Kotar. The aggression became increasingly serious, leading to an incident in which Kotar bit a part of Kanduke's genitals and caused an infection. It is not known if such serious aggression and injury would occur in the open seas.[89]

Early pregnancy and related issues[edit]

Captive killer whales often give birth at a much younger age than in the wild, sometimes as young as age 7. The young mothers may have difficulty raising their offspring. The calves have a relatively low survival rate, though some have lived into adulthood.

Corky (II), a female from the A5 Pod in British Columbia, Canada became the first killer whale to become pregnant in captivity, giving birth on 28 February 1977. The calf died after 18 days. Corky went on to give birth six more times, but the longest surviving calf, Kiva, lived only 47 days.[90] SeaWorld has attracted criticism over its continued captivity of Corky II from the Born Free Foundation, who want her returned to her family in the wild.[91]

A killer whale named Katina, captured near Iceland at about two years of age in October 1978, became pregnant in early spring of 1984 at SeaWorld San Diego and gave birth in September 1985 to a female named Kalina. Although it was an extremely young age for an killer whale to become a mother, Kalina was the first killer whale calf to be successfully born and raised in captivity.[92] In turn, Kalina gave birth at only seven and a half years of age to her first calf, a male named Keet.[27]

Gudrun was an Icelandic female caught in the 1970s. In 1993, she gave birth to Nyar, a female who was both mentally and physically ill, and who Gudrun tried to drown during several shows. Nyar died from an illness a few months later. Gudrun died in 1996 from stillbirth complications.[93][94]

Taima is a transient/Icelandic hybrid female killer whale born in captivity to Gudrun in 1989.[95] Trainers believe that Gudrun's behavior towards Nyar may have confused Taima, as she may have thought this was how to raise a calf. In May 1998, Taima gave birth to a male calf named Sumar. They were separated when he was about eight months old because of the aggression between them. On one occasion while performing, Taima started biting Sumar and throwing him out of the pool onto the trainer’s platform. She then slid out herself, and continued to bite him. In November 2000, Taima gave birth to a male named Tekoa. The two were separated after only nine months due to aggression between them.[96][97] On 12 March 2007 Taima gave birth to her third calf, Malia. Taima seemed to be a better mother this time, and no notable occurrences of aggression were reported, this may be in part due to the fact, Kalina acted as "aunt" to Malia and helped Taima to look after her. Kalina was a very experienced mother and would often be kept with Malia, while Taima was given time with her mate, Tilikum. Taima died in 2010 during the birthing process of her fourth calf. The calf, fathered by Tilikum, was stillborn.

Kayla, a killer whale born in captivity, gave birth to her first calf on 9 October 2005, a female named Halyn. Kayla rejected her calf, perhaps because she had never been exposed to a young calf before and did not know how to deal with it. Halyn was moved to a special animal care facility to be hand raised. Halyn died unexpectedly on 15 June 2008.[98]

On 13 October 2010, Kohana, an eight-year-old female killer whale, gave birth to a male calf at Loro Parque's "Orca Ocean" exhibit after a four-hour labor. The calf weighed in at about 150 kilograms (330 lb), and was two meters (6 ft 7 in) long. Kohana has yet to establish a "maternal bond" with her calf, forcing trainers to take the first steps in hand rearing him. The outcome of this pregnancy was not considered surprising since Kohana was separated from her own mother, Takara, at three years of age, and was never able to learn about maternal care, compounded by the fact that she spent the formative years of her life surrounded by the three other juvenile killer whales at Loro Parque.


  1. ^ a b "Orcas in captivity". Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. Retrieved 25 July 2007. [dead link]
  2. ^ Balcomb, C. Kenneth (2000). Killer whales: the natural history and genealogy of Orinus orca in British Columbia and Washington State. Vancouver: UBC Press. ISBN 0-7748-0800-4. 
  3. ^ Glen Martin (1 December 1993). "Killer Culture". DISCOVER Magazine. Retrieved 14 December 2007. 
  4. ^ Washington Officials Say Orcas Threatened
  5. ^ Recovery Plan Outlined for Puget Sound’s Killer Whales[dead link]
  6. ^ Killer whales threatened by salmon shortage
  7. ^ Baird, Robin W (2002). Killer whales of the world: natural history and conservation. Stillwater, Minnesota: Voyageur Press. ISBN 0-89658-512-3. 
  8. ^ "Killer Whale Netted in Newport Harbor". Independent-Press-Telegram Newspaper of Long Beach, California / Bob Geivet. 1961-11-19. Retrieved 2014-02-25. 
  9. ^ "'Newport Specimen' November, 1961 / Behavioral, Antatomical and Pathological Data on the 'Newport Specimen'". Marineland of the Pacific Historical Society. Retrieved 2014-02-25. 
  10. ^ "A listing of dolphin/whale captures..." at
  11. ^ WGBH Frontline: "Edward 'Ted' Griffin, The Life and Adventures of a Man Who Caught Killer Whales". Retrieved 2008 March 28
  12. ^ Heimlich, Sara and Boran, James. Killer Whales (2001) Voyageur Press, Stillwater, Minnesota.
  13. ^ Aguilar, Rose. "Blackfish: Highlighting the plight of captive orcas". Aljazeera. Aljazeera Satellite Network. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  14. ^ "The Capture of Orcas"[dead link] In Kokomo. Retrieved 14 February 2009.
  15. ^ "Since first orca capture, views have changed". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 14 February 2009.
  16. ^ "Lolita's Life Today" Orca Network. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  17. ^ "Orca survival trumps profits, 'ownership' " San Juan Journal. Retrieved 14 February 2009.
  18. ^ "Free Lolita! Bid to bring orca 'home' heats up" Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 14 February 2009.
  19. ^ "Send An Email to Help Lolita the Orca Whale" Retrieved 14 February 2009.
  20. ^ The Icelandic live-capture fishery for killer whales 1976-1988 Orca Home. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  21. ^ "A Whale of a Business" PBS, Reproduced from "The Performing Orca, Why the Show Must Stop" by Erich Hoyt. Retrieved 14 February 2009.
  22. ^ Keiko's Story: The Timeline
  23. ^ The Free Willy Keiko Foundation
  24. ^ Estes, J.A. (2007). Whales, whaling, and ocean ecosystems. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24884-8. 
  25. ^ "More Orcas Under Threat As A Cruel Capture Is Commemorated" Orca Zone. Retrieved 15 February 2009.
  26. ^ "Kamchatka Orca First Victim of Russia's Captive Orca Business"[dead link] Humane Society International. Retrieved 15 February 2009.
  27. ^ a b "Kalina" Orca Spirit. Retrieved 15 February 2009.
  28. ^ "Artificially inseminated killer whale gives birth" BBC. Retrieved 14 February 2009.
  29. ^ Surprisingly, Kasatka is Kohana's grandmother."Kohana" Friend of the Orcas. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  30. ^ "Artificial Insemination Produces Killer Whales"[dead link] Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Retrieved 14 February 2009.
  31. ^ Davis, Susan G. (1996). Spectacular nature : corporate culture and the Sea World experience (p72ff). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-20981-7. 
  32. ^ Free Lolita Update #52 – ACT NOW to help Lolita Orca Network. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  33. ^ "Tank Worlds" Orca Home. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  34. ^ SeaWorld Press Release Kit[dead link]. Retrieved 5 March 2007. Archived 7 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine[dead link]
  35. ^ "History of the Miami Seaquarium". Retrieved 30 November 2007. 
  36. ^ Lolita's Life Today. Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  37. ^ "Marineland Canada website" Marineland Canada. Retrieved 15 February 2009.
  38. ^ "Loro Parque Website"[dead link] Loro Parque. Retrieved 16 February 2009.
  39. ^ Los adiestradores del Loro Parque no tienen titulación oficial -
  40. ^ Humane Society. "Held Captive: Orcas". Retrieved 25 July 2012. 
  41. ^ About APHIS USDA. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  42. ^ Animal Care Resource Guide[dead link] APHIS. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  43. ^ Killer whale World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  44. ^ Our Members Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  45. ^ Seaquarium Activists Push to Free Lolita the Whale Village Voice Media. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  46. ^ Orca diet and location Oracle ThinkQuest. Retrieved 8 March 2009
  47. ^ Hughes, Catherine D. "National Geographic creature feature". Retrieved 8 March 2009. 
  48. ^ Ask Shamu SeaWorld. Retrieved 8 March 2009.
  49. ^ Dierauf, Edited by Leslie A Gulland D Frances M (2001). CRC handbook of marine mammal medicine. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. ISBN 0-8493-0839-9. 
  50. ^ Comparison Of Amikacin Pharmacokintetics In A Killer Whale (Orcinus Orca) And A Beluga Whale (Delphinapterus Leucas) American Association of Zoo Veterinarians. Retrieved 8 March 2009.
  51. ^ Zoological Park Careers SeaWorld. Retrieved 8 March 2009.
  52. ^ A Killer Reputation Dolphin Retrieved 8 March 2009.
  53. ^
  54. ^ Resnick, Jane (1994). All about training Shamu. Bridgeport, Conn.: Third Story Books. ISBN 1-884506-11-9. 
  55. ^ Parsons, ECM (2013). An Introduction to Marine Mammal Biology and Conservation. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-7637-8344-0. 
  56. ^
  57. ^ "Killer Whale (Orcinus Orca)". Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  58. ^ "Sea World Killer Whale Dies". WOAI-TV. Archived from the original on 30 October 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2007. 
  59. ^ "Killer whale at SeaWorld San Antonio dies". Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on 23 October 2007. Retrieved 19 October 2007. 
  60. ^ A Second Captive Orca, Taku, Dies from Virus Transmitted By Mosquito Vector
  61. ^ The First Captive Killer Whales - A Changing Attitude
  62. ^ a b c National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Regional Office (August 2005). "Proposed Conservation Plan for Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca)" (PDF). Archived from the original on 21 February 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2007. 
  63. ^ a b c "Ask Shamu: Frequently Asked Questions". SeaWorld/Busch Gardens. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  64. ^ Williams, Vanessa (30 April 2001). "Captive Orcas 'Dying to Entertain You'" (PDF). Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  65. ^ "A recent survey of killer whales off the coast of New Zealand documented that 23% of males had bent dorsal fins.""Animal Bytes: Killer Whale". SeaWorld/Busch Gardens. Retrieved 8 May 2008. 
  66. ^ a b c Ingrid N. Visser. "Prolific body scars and collapsing dorsal fins on killer whales (Orcinus orca) in New Zealand waters" (PDF). Archived from the original on 27 February 2008. Retrieved 28 March 2008. 
  67. ^ Hoyt, Erich, et al. "Observations of Disparity between Educational Material Related to Killer Whales (Orcinus Orca) Disseminated by Public Display Institutions and the Scientific Literature" (PDF). 
  68. ^ Captive Orcas dying to entertain you[dead link]
  69. ^ Jeanna Bryner (24 February 2010). "Killer Whales Don't Usually Kill People". Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  70. ^ Cherry-Garrard, Apsley (1922). The Worst Journey in the World. 
  71. ^ Kayak attack,
  72. ^ "ABC News: Killer Whale Attacks SeaWorld Trainer". ABC News. 
  73. ^ Kluger, Jeffrey (26 February 2010). "Killer-Whale Tragedy: What Made Tilikum Snap?". Time Magazine. Retrieved 5 March 2010. 
  74. ^ "Inside the mind of a 'killer whale'". Cosmic Log (website). MSNBC. 25 February 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2010. [dead link]
  75. ^ "Keep Whales Wild: Trainer Incidents". Retrieved 5 November 2010. 
  76. ^ "Tilikum" Orca Spirit. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  77. ^
  78. ^ New York Times 21 September 1999. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  79. ^ "SeaWorld trainer killed by killer whale -". CNN. 25 February 2010. Retrieved 28 April 2010.  See also: Tilikum
  80. ^ What’s best for "Tilikum" now, and what have we learned?
  81. ^ Repard, Pauline (30 November 2006). "Killer whale bites trainer, takes him to tank bottom". 
  82. ^ [1] Huffington Post. 24 July 2012.
  83. ^ "Killer whale attacks Sea World trainer" CNN 30 November 2006.
  84. ^ "Kasatka" Beyond the Blue. Retrieved 14 February 2009.
  85. ^ La orca «Keto» sí atacó y causó la muerte de Alexis, el adiestrador del Loro Parque -
  86. ^ Uno de los responsables de las orcas reconoce la «agresión» de «Tekoa» en 2007 -
  87. ^ "Corky's Story" The Orca Zone. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  88. ^ "Kandu 5 Page" geocities. Retrieved 12 February 2009.[dead link]
  89. ^ "Kanduke" Orca Spirit. Retrieved 12 February 2009.[dead link]
  90. ^ "Corky's saddest day"[dead link] Orca Lab. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  91. ^ Behind the bars - Orca in captivity
  92. ^ "Captive Orcas 'Dying to Entertain You'" Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. Retrieved 15 February 2009.
  93. ^ "Gudrun" geocities. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  94. ^ Website Dolfinarium, Downloaded on 5 November 2008 from
  95. ^ SeaWorld Welcomes Newest "Pea" to Pod, press release, SeaWorld Orlando, 12 March 2007. Retrieved 6 June 2007.
  96. ^ "Beyond the Blue: Taima" Free Webs. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  97. ^ "Sumar" Beyond the Blue. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  98. ^ "Killer whale at SeaWorld San Antonio dies". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 15 June 2008. [dead link]

External links[edit]