After more than a month of staying at SeaWorld San Diego, the facility finally returned an Eastern Pacific green sea turtle to his natural habitat. The sea turtle named “Salty” is estimated to be 40 to 50 years old. When SeaWorld rescued him from a pond last month, he displayed signs of severe dehydration. The park’s veterinarians needed to give him electrolyte fluids and other vitamins. Salty was also ushered to a rehabilitation area with warm water for him to regain his strength.
Green sea turtles are considered as threatened species. Aside from illegal harvesting of green turtles and their eggs, the World Wild Life Fund (WWF) cites “uncontrolled coastal development, vehicle traffic on beaches, and other human activities” as threats to the marine creatures’ nests and feeding grounds.
Following its safe release of Salty, some are wondering if the zoological facility’s branch in San Antonio, Texas will do the same for Takara’s upcoming calf. Takara is a 25-year-old pregnant orca. She is expected to give birth in Spring 2017.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is urging SeaWorld to find a way for Takara to deliver her calf in a seaside sanctuary in order for the newborn to be freed.
Takara has four other calves, but two of them were transferred to other parks. Her eldest, Kohana, is now at the Loro Parque in Spain, while her second calf Trua is in Florida. Her two youngest calves, Sakari and Kamea, are living with her in San Antonio.
PETA claims that Takara’s story is filled with pain because orcas are meant to be with their mothers for life. However, Takara was born in captivity in 1991. Her mother is at SeaWorld San Diego. This fate likewise happened to Takara’s older calves.
The renowned park is also under fire for allegedly allowing Takara to be pregnant several times – something that does not happen in the wild. According to marine animals protection group Liberate Cetaceans, females in the wild usually get pregnant every 6-10 years. In their lifetime, they typically deliver 4-6 calves.
In Takara’s case, she is due to give birth to her fifth calf already. At 24, she should only have two calves to maintain her health. SeaWorld has not yet addressed the allegations regarding Takara’s pregnancy, but in an email addressed to EcoWatch, the park talked about PETA’s ideas and branded them as “simplistic.”
“Placing any of the orcas we care for into their proposed sea cages would expose them to disease, pollution and other man-made and natural disasters. PETA’s ideas are simplistic and don’t take into account that the majority of the whales at SeaWorld were born in human care or have spent almost their entire lives at our facilities.”
SeaWorld added that they’re channeling their efforts into other issues that require urgent help, such as shark finning, commercial whaling, and the rehabilitation of sick animals.
Ever since the documentary Blackfish exposed SeaWorld’s treatment of its famous orcas in captivity, the company has been dealing with backlash. The 2013 film revealed the effect of small tanks on orcas; in the wild, the creatures are used to swimming up to a hundred miles each day.
Business Insider reports that the documentary indeed contributed to the decline of attendance at the company’s parks. This year’s second quarter witnessed a drop of 496,000 guests (7.6 percent) compared with last year’s second quarter.
Since then, the company is continuously trying to regain the trust of its disheartened clients. SeaWorld has announced that they will put an end to their captive orca breeding. They will also discontinue the once popular theatrical “Shamu” show. Starting next year, park visitors will no longer watch the whales in “scripted” shows, but will see the marine creatures in their redesigned sanctuaries that are reminiscent of the wild.
Last March, SeaWorld announced that Tilikum, the orca that inspired Blackfish, is dying. The facility has reportedly not found a cure for the drug-resistant bacterial lung infection.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]