Animal-Rights Group Attack Richard Branson's Virgin Travel

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) - now branded Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) - is still banging the drum for the contentious and discredited animal-rights film 'Blackfish'.  Its latest efforts is a press release to travel journalists such as The Daily Telegraph alerting them to their campaign to put pressure of various travel firms (including Richard Branson's Virgin Travel) not to promote and sell packages that included trips to the SeaWorld marine park in Orlando, Florida claiming that companies such as Virgin are: "...profiting from the cruel captivity industry".

One interesting point that should be noted is that (as predicted) there is now a considerable amount of  'mission creep' from these groups protesting against captive killer whales as they have now moved on to protesting about the captive care of all whales and dolphins (cetaceans); a situation that all zoological collections should be aware of if they display marine mammals or other large charismatic species such as elephants.

The claims within the WDC press release follow the usual predictable pattern of 'cut and paste' animal-rights rhetoric including issues such as wild capture, animals' wild ranging behaviour and survivorship.

"...WDC claims that five SeaWorld orcas were taken from the wild and that “most of the orcas held by SeaWorld die in their teens.” It also says that an orca at SeaWorld would have to circle its tank 1,400 times to match the distance it would naturally travel in the wild each day..." The Daily Telegraph. 1 March 2014
Indeed, five of SeaWorld orcas were taken from the wild, which is indeed the case, but WDC is a bit more selective with other facts.  The last wild-caught killer whale at SeaWorld was caught over 30 years ago in Iceland in 1983 for a Canadian aquarium Sealand of the Pacific which when it closed in 1991 transferred its animals to SeaWorld.  It should also be noted that 21 of SeaWorld's 26 killer whales were born in captivity; these figures exclude the 4 animals born at SeaWorld that are now displayed at Loro Park in Spain.

WDC comments regarding how far wild killer whales would travel in the natural environment are both naive and simplistic as in the case of many wild animals (such as elephants) they move large distances due to pressures such as acquiring adequate food resources.

As to survivorship, the average age of killer whales at SeaWorld is approximately 16 years but this is statistically biased towards young animals due to a captive breeding programme which did not successfully start until 1985.  SeaWorld considers its animals survivorship is equivalent to that of the wild.

More details of SeaWorld's killer whales HERE.

Moreover, as the WDC has brought up the issue of all whales and dolphins in captive care it should be noted that published survivorship research on the bottlenose dolphin (the most commonly cetacean kept in zoos) shows its survivorship exceeds its wild counterparts. 

More details HERE

Perhaps one of the biggest puzzles regarding the WDC is why a 'conservation charity' is spending well-meaning public donations on dubious concerns regarding animals living in zoos and aquariums to the point of paying for an anti-captive campaigns officer?  When the fact is that the real conservation issues for whales and dolphins are not in well run zoological collections but in the wild.  Moreover, parks like SeaWorld spend considerably more time and money on the welfare and research of marine mammals than groups like WDC.  

A rather unfortunate and ironic meme that was posted badged with the WDC logo when 'Blackfish' was rightly not nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary.