Subject: Orca: Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Fri, 18 Jul 1997 06:35:16 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Tue, 15 Jul 1997 09:35:47 -0700
From: Orca Survey <>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Subject: Re: Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS)

For answers to most of the questions posed in the posting by Caryn Self
Sullivan, the publication "The Performing Orca - Why The Show Must Stop," by
Erich Hoyt, is the best clearinghouse for relevant information. Contact WDCS
for a copy.

Basically, the implication that the facts presented by WDCS are somehow
misleading indicates that Ms. Sullivan is reluctant to accept the overall
picture that emerges from the data. Let me put it in general terms: Orcas
almost inevitably die in their youth or early adulthood when captured and
confined to marine park tanks. After the first few captures in the
mid-1960's they were almost all captured between the ages of 2 and 6. Only
four have so far made it into their late twenties or early thirties. (Over
fifty were captured and delivered by 1976) Again, the raw data can be found
in The Performing Orca.

Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium, the last surviving orca from about 45
captured and delivered from Washington State, is the oldest surviving orca
in captivity, at the age of 33.

>I am very interested in the following facts from WDCS, and would like to
>know more.  Can anyone, would anyone, comment on the following excerpts,
>which are followed by my questions?

>>>   -- At least 134 Orcas were taken into captivity between 1961-1996.
>How many of these animals were captured for commercial purposes and how
>many were stranded or injured animals taken into captivity for rehab

They were all captured for commercial purposes, except two that were
captured for the US Navy.

>Of those captured for commercial purposes, who captured them, when and
>where were they captured, and to whom were they sold?  (1961 was a long
>time ago and many things have changed since then)

I don't see how the identity of the captors is of particular relevance, but
again much of that information is in The Performing Orca. They were sold to
perform in marine parks. Contrary to popular belief, survival rates have not
improved in recent years.

>>>Ninety-eight of those whales are now dead.
>Again, when were they captured, and when did they die?  How did they die?
>If any were rehab animals, did they die in captivity or upon release? Were
>any of these animals injured when they were caught?  (i.e. did they die
>from injuries which occured during capture or did they die because they
>could not survive in the captive environment?) How old were they when they
>were caught?  How long did they live in captivity?

>>>   -- The average survival time in captivity is just over five years.
>Does this average include animals that died immediately?  What is the range
>of survival time?

This statistic can be manipulated in various ways. Again, look at The
Performing Orca and draw your own conclusions.

>>>   -- Most die in captivity before they reach their early twenties. In
>>>the wild females live an average of 50 years but can live to the grand
>>>old age of 80. Male Orcas live an average of 29 years, but can live to
>>>the age of 50.
>>>   -- Since 1968 there have been 47 known pregnancies in captivity -
>>>only 17 calves survived.
>What are the individual dates?  What are the statistics for say the last 3,
>5 or even 10 years?  Three decades is a long time period from which to
>present totals and averages considering the dynamic changes that have
>occured in laws and attitudes since the 60's.

I could list the 9 orca females between 12 and 25 who have died in the four
Sea World tanks just since 1989, and note that not one single female in that
age group has died among a population of around 300 free-ranging whales in
Washington and BC since 1973. Look in R.J.Small and D.P.DeMaster (1995),
Survival of five species of captive marine mammals. Marine Mammal Science
11(2):209-226. for the statement that orcas' survival rates are lower for
captives than for free orcas.

I will leave it to others to describe the many indications of depression and
untimely death that occur among young orcas in marine parks.

Howard Garrett

Howard Garrett
Tokitae Foundation
1357 Smuggler's Cove Road
Friday Harbor WA 98250
Ph: 360-378-5835
Fx: 360-378-5954

For a look at Lolita's story and the possibilities for her return, see: