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October 6, 2010

Latest SeaWorld Orca Death Adds to Evidence of Captivity Perils

WASHINGTON — Naomi Rose, Ph.D., marine mammal scientist for The Humane Society of the United States, issued the following statement about the recent orca death at SeaWorld.

“Yet another orca has died at SeaWorld. On Oct. 4, Kalina, who in 1985 was the first captive-born orca to survive infancy, died in Orlando after showing no signs of illness until hours before her death. Kalina’s death follows that of Taima, a 21-year-old captive-born whale who died at the Orlando park in June while giving birth to a dead calf, and that of Sumar, a 12-year-old captive-born male, who died at the San Diego park in September from as yet undetermined causes. With the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in February and these three orca deaths, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that a 45-year experiment has resulted in a spectacular failure.

"Orcas are large, long-lived mammals, highly social and family-oriented, wide-ranging, and extremely intelligent. SeaWorld has spent decades trying to convince the world that, contrary to all logic, such a creature belongs in small concrete tanks. The evidence has been mounting for at least 25 years that this is flatly untrue and the events of 2010 should be the final word. Twenty-five of SeaWorld’s orcas have died in the past 24 years, many of them young calves or adolescents. None of these dead animals had come anywhere near the maximum possible lifespan for this species; only a handful of SeaWorld whales, living or dead, has even achieved the average lifespan. Four people have been killed, including two in the past year by two different whales. Dozens of people have been injured, several seriously, by SeaWorld whales over the years. In comparison, wild orcas often live to be 30, 40, or 50 years of age and some females have lived to be 80 or 90 years old. No human being has ever been seriously injured or killed by a wild whale, despite centuries of encounters on the open seas. These contrasts are striking and irrefutable and point to only one conclusion: orcas do not belong in tanks.”

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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