Subject: Captivity of orcas

Jennifer D. Philips (
Tue, 05 May 1998 20:55:01 -1000

>Hi Jen, I am writing for a former student who is interested in the effects of
>capitivity on orcas. I am now retired and have not kept many of the files I
>formerly had. Do you have any knowledge of this or do you know whom I can
>contact for more info about this . Thanks Betty Edwards-Cabana 	emial address
>Paddlein @

Betty - 

The effects of captivity on killer whales, both good and bad, are not
completely understood.  What is universally true, however,  is that the
better the care an orca receives in captivity, the better (or 'less-bad',
however you with to term it) the effects of captivity are on the whale.
Those who keep and care for marine mammals have been able to improve the
care they can give after years of practice and research.  The nutritional
needs of killer whales is better understood, the optimal tank sizes and
activity levels, stimuli in the form of other animals and play all have
come into play when making the effects of captivity better than worse.  One
interesting result of captivity, though, seems to the be the drooping of
the dorsal fin - most killer whales in captivity for any length of time
have drooped dorsal fins.  We are not 100% sure why this is the case.  The
most likely explanation is that despite our advanced knowledge of the
nutritional needs of killer whales, there might be some nutrient that we
are not providing with, causing the cartileage in the dorsal fin to weaken.
 Other than that anomoly, killer whales have become well cared for and
charished by most parks and aquariums that keep them, and as such have
little bad effects from captivity other than the 'longing for freedom'.
Whales born in captivity may not even have that.  

I hope this answers your students question.  Please write again if your
would like to further discuss this.  Captivity can be a very heated and
serious issue if it is not thought about clearly.

Aloha - 



Jennifer D. Philips

Marine Mammal Research Program
HIMB, University of Hawaii at Manoa
PO Box 1106			
Kailua, HI  96734
voice:  (808) 247-5063
fax: (808) 247-5831