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SeaWorld Orca Suffers Gruesome Injury – But How?

SeaWorld Orca Suffers Gruesome Injury – But How?

A giant chunk of flesh was gouged out of an orca’s chin at SeaWorld on September 20th. The orca, 11-year-old Nakai, suffered a wound so deep that it “exposes both underlying tissue and bone,” reports Tim Zimmerman. SeaWorld’s only explanation is that Nakai “came into contact with a portion of the pool,” according to the U-T San Diego.

That must have been one heck of a “contact”:

Stills available at Tim Zimmermann

Orcas, also known as killer whales, have not fared well in captivity. Two former SeaWorld trainers wrote a report, available at The Orca Project, detailing the stressors that reduce captive orcas’ median lifespan from 30-50 years to about nine. They write:

Typically spending their entire lives within tight family groupings, orcas captured from the wild…have been traumatically extracted from the security, comfort and mentoring which these groupings provide.  Captured animals are confined to small, acoustically-dead, concrete enclosures where they must live in extremely close proximity to other whales with which they often share no ancestral, cultural or communication similarities.  The resultant infighting amongst captive orcas is exacerbated by virtue of having no place to run, as confinement fails to provide spatial escape options that natural settings offer.  As a result, social strife is common in captivity, including aggression, in which whales are cut, raked, and rammed, usually by members higher on the social ladder.

SeaWorld has a long history of injuries and death to both orcas and human trainers that demonstrates the mammals are better off in the wild. 24 orcas died in 25 years at SeaWorld, according to Care2.

According to the report by former SeaWorld trainers, in 2009-2010 two trainers were killed by captive orcas. In 1989, an orca was injured and spent 45 agonizing minutes “spouting blood from her blowhole” until she died in view of the public. In 2010, an orca died of “bacterial septicemia”; ”it is not clear how bacteria entered her bloodstream.”

According to former SeaWorld trainers, 100% of male captive orcas’ dorsal fins have collapsed like the one above. 99% of free male orcas’ dorsal fins point straight up. Photo credit: iStockphoto

The stress of captivity often causes orcas ulcers, the former trainers report. It also leads to boredom and physical deconditioning because the captives cannot swim the 100 miles a day that they would cover in the wild. The orcas suffer loneliness because in the wild, they “spend their entire lives with family members,” while marine parks commonly move young whales away from their families to other parks. Each family, or pod, may have its own language and customs, and when orcas are held in pools with unrelated animals, failures to communicate, along with stress and frustration, can cause friction and violence among tank mates.

It remains to be seen whether and how well Nakai will recover from his injury, which SeaWorld is treating with antibiotics. Even if he recovers fully, he will likely remain in a tank with animals he has fought with, submerged in chemically-treated water, and fed an artificial diet, as Care2 has reported.

Related Stories

24th Orca Dies at SeaWorld

Revenge at SeaWorld: Orca Attack Shouldn’t Come as Any Surprise

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Photo credit: Ingrid Visser/Orca Research Trust

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8:43AM PDT on May 10, 2013

incredible, the good food could matter that pain.

3:47AM PDT on May 10, 2013

Sad that these sorts of places still exist - shame on them - and on the people who keep them in business for paying money to see cruelty in practice. Is it ignorance or lack of empathy or both? -- who knows? - I certainly cannot understand it.

2:36AM PDT on Apr 18, 2013


12:13AM PDT on Apr 18, 2013


12:13AM PDT on Apr 18, 2013


6:30AM PDT on Apr 15, 2013

Please act now for the beautiful marine lives

3:38PM PDT on Apr 13, 2013

Can you imagine the pain this creature must have been in? The article only mentions treating the animal with antibiotics and given the fact that captive Orcas have a greatly reduced lifespan (perhaps a blessing) about which the operators obviously care little, it would be sheer folly to assume they would care about the pain these huge mammals experience. It is also obvious to anyone who bothers to stop and think of the plight of these creatures the only concern the operators have is profits (I’m not opposed to capitalism) the only solution is to remove the profits by refusing to support these hell holes. The owners have friends in power and we know this because I’ll bet not one site member saw any mention of this injury in their hometown newspapers. I’d venture another guess; most visitors presume these animals are well cared for. Americans tend to expect some branch of a government agency must be charged with the assurance the animals are healthy & happy. Just another service from the government we expect but are unwilling to pay for. A letter to the editor might alert others to the poor treatment of these animals but if your newspaper derives profits through running ads for these places they might not be willing to jeopardize those funds but we do have social media and they might be the Orcas & others best hope.

9:42PM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

It is way past time for the public to shut these miserable places down. I do not understand why the 98% of caring human beings in this world allow this kind of torture to continue. All of these large animals are most assuredly so far out of their normal mind set, that as we can see, are very dangerous not only to the humans who insist on interacting with them but to each other.
Shut these places down and return these animals to their natural habitat to hopefully live out the rest of their lives with their own kind in PEACE !

9:17AM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

Sonya Armenia is right.

9:16AM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

very sad

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