SeaWorld Orcas

Is Ending SeaWorld’s Orca Breeding Program In The Best Interest Of Orcas? Scientists Warn It Isn’t

It was on March 17 of this year that the Inquisitr reported the company SeaWorld had announced the end of the Orca breeding program which would lead to the phasing out of the Orca theater entertainment.

According to the Daily Mail, there is just one more birth of an orca whale to come at SeaWorld. This birth will be the last chance for Dawn Noren, a research biologist, to study and observe exactly how a female killer whale passes toxins to her calves through milk.

The decision SeaWorld made last month to discontinue the orca breeding program was cause for celebration among animal rights activities. Marine scientists, however, claim they will be losing vital opportunities to research, study, and learn things that could be used to help wild orcas.

Dawn Noren, for example, has only been able to study one other mother with her calf at SeaWorld before the company announced the end of the breeding program.

“It’s really difficult to publish with one. I really was hoping for a couple more, but that is what it is.”

Noren currently works at the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

The Chicago Tribune reports that SeaWorld has 29 captive orcas at parks in Orlando, San Antonio, and San Diego. Orcas will likely still be on display for several decades despite this being the last generation of orcas at SeaWorld. Scientists have warned that as the population of orcas, who range in age from 1 to 51, dwindle, so will the chance to collect health data and make other up close observations. According to these scientists, they will be limited to observing and researching geriatric orcas as these captive orcas age.

The Chicago Tribune also reported that there are no other aquariums or marine parks on the planet with the same experience SeaWorld has with breeding and maintaining orcas. In fact, SeaWorld is home to all but one of the orcas captive within the United States. In the past five decades, this company has been home to more than 10 percent of the orcas tracked by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The captive orcas in Europe, Japan, and Canada have not been made accessible to scientists and researchers.

“SeaWorld will continue to support research projects underway on hearing, heart rates and blood.”

Chris Dold, SeaWorld’s chief zoological officer, confirmed.

SeaWorld critics such as WDC/Whale and Dolphin Conservation and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have sidestepped any questions in regard to whether or not research regarding the well-being of the orcas will suffer as a result of ending the breeding program. According to the Chicago Tribune, the critics have stated that SeaWorld’s orca research has yet to help orcas in the wild.

“SeaWorld has had the largest population of orcas and has had the opportunity to do useful research and had done none of that.”

Jared Goodman, PETA’s director of animal law, agrees that having captive orcas at SeaWorld was a great opportunity for research for the well-being of the killer whales. He does not, however, believe any research or observations done at SeaWorld have been beneficial enough for the company to continue to breed killer whales.

Researchers outside of SeaWorld, on the other hand, argue they need SeaWorld and the employees who work at SeaWorld to better understand orcas in the wild.

“If you want to interact with them and conduct research, the combination of talent you have to have is a scientist with a research question, animals that are healthy so that you’re looking at normal physiological rates, and in between that are the trainers — and I think people miss that.”

Terrie Williams, who runs the Center for Marine Mammal Research and Conservation at University of California, Santa Cruz, feels that some of the animal rights activists who criticize SeaWorld may not fully understand how important and beneficial the research can be.

Originally, the company’s decision to end the breeding program and phase out the orca performances was the result of a drop in ticket prices and years of protests by animal activists.

[Photo by SeaWorld/Getty Images]

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