Killer whales, car parks and The Whale Sanctuary.

The entertainment website LAD Bible perpetuating pseudoscience rather than objective journalism

"...there is no evidence to suggest the size of zoo car park should determine the size of their animal exhibits…"

One of the arguments against having large animals in human care such as whales and dolphins is that in the wild these animals range over large areas. This is then presented juxtaposed to the habitats these animals are provided with within human care. 


One such animal-rights meme (promoted by the animal rights group the Orca Project) has been an aerial photograph of one of the SeaWorld parks comparing the killer whale habitat with the size of the car park and an ornamental lake. As always this is an appeal to emotion from the animal rights industry. Moreover, as regards animal welfare it is not valid, particularly when comparing the life of animals in the wild with those in human care.


First, there is the obvious observation that there is no scientific correlation between the size of a car park in a zoological collection with the size of the facilities needed for the successful care of the animals they exhibit. Further, such a comparison is erroneous because in the wild many animal species may travel long distances for two primary reasons: one is to forage for food and the other is reproduction. They have to undertake these behaviours as a matter of survival: they are undertaking this for recreational reasons. 


In fact, research that looked into the provisioning (feeding) of wild animals actually demonstrates that these animals do not move away from the area where they are being fed. This is why many countries like the USA prohibit the feeding of wild animals by the public because it distorts their natural behaviour; makes animals dependent on humans for their food and it can compromise their welfare. A case in point is the wild dolphins living in Australia at Monkey Mai where provisioning of the animals by the public has caused serious problems as regards animals welfare.


Moreover, animals in human care are living in artificial environments and therefore the dynamics are different than the wild. They are dependent on their food from their caretakers which does not involve the animals having to travel long distances. Therefore, giving them environments to live in that reflect travelling distance when foraging for food in the wild serves no useful purpose.

This is not to say that in human care animals can be kept in any form of restricted environment but these considerations need to be objectively assessed. Again, using the travelling distances that animals need to forage in the wild is not an appropriate parameter. It should be noted that a number of countries including the United States, have specific legislation that regulates the parameters of care that animals must be given. 


The Whale Sanctuary Project and their need for animals.


Perhaps it's worth considering why the animal rights industry is taking so much time and trouble with these kinds of campaigns. 


Originally, SeaWorld was going to extend their killer whale facilities in a project called the Blue World Project. However, problems developed in California in October 2015 when the California Coastline Commission (under pressure from animal rights activists) try to dictate SeaWorld's animal husbandry policy. The Commission stated that SeaWorld must undertake a breeding ban of their killer whales before they will give permission for the new facility to be built. SeaWorld then commenced suing the California Coastline Commission


However, Joel Manby - who became CEO of SeaWorld in December 2014 - announced in March 2016 that the group would discontinue breeding their killer whales in all their parks. Manby stated that his reason for instigating a group ban was due to the California Coastline Commission's decision. 


However, with a breeding ban in place across all the parks, SeaWorld made a business decision to cancelled its expansion plans for all their killer whale exhibits. As there were no plans to add additional animals to their current killer whale population, expansion plans were considered not viable due to the diminishing number of animals that would occur over the years.


In the meantime various animal rights activists meet in Vancouver, Canada to discussed the possibility of setting up a facility for holding killer whales. 


In April 2016, the Whale Sanctuary Project, as it was to be called, was officially launched; at this current time the Sanctuary only publicly exists as a website and they have yet to find a suitable location for the construction of the project. However, and perhaps more importantly, they have yet to raise the huge amounts of money needed to construct such a facility. In a meeting in Washington State in July 2019, The Whale Sanctuary stated the estimated cost of the project was 15 to 20 million US dollars for initial construction and 2 million dollars a year running costs which would maintain 6 to 8 whales. SeaWorld current display 20 killer whales at their parks.


Nevertheless, if such an animal rights run marine facility is going to be viable it needs to be populated with animals to attract visitors and generate income to secure its future. Therefore, these groups are targeting facilities such as SeaWorld's because they want their animals for there own marine park. With this in mind, it is easy to see why they continue to target SeaWorld despite the park being committed to a breeding ban with the current existing killer whales being the last to be displayed at the parks.


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