Zoos, sea parks, aquariums, wildlife sanctuaries. Although with different intentions, all these establishments have one thing in common, which is to hold wild animals in captivity. The best case scenario is that they do so because certain animals would not be able to take care of themselves and survive in the wilderness; that’s a sanctuary.
The sad reality is that most of the animals people are excited to see during their family trip to the zoo on a Saturday are actually perfectly capable of living out in the wild nature, they are simply deprived of that right. Killer whales, also known as orcas, are among these animals, and there are reasons why they in particular should never be kept in captivity.
Unlike what their name suggests, killer whales are actually a part of the dolphin family. They have gained a particular interest of the public and from marine biologists around the world due to their distinct looks, so they are a sought-after animal for many sea parks. However, capturing and keeping them accessible to the public eye has huge downsides for these magnificent creatures.
From a physical standpoint, tanks in which they are kept are terrible for their health because no matter how large they are, they will never be big enough to accommodate the need for long-distance travel that these creatures have. In the wild, killer whales can travel as much as 100 miles (160km) per day, and regardless how much they seemingly get to work out while in captivity, it will never be able to match this number. Thus, their bodies adapt and develop in unnatural ways, leading to various health issues.
Also, the “killer” part of their name is not actually all that accurate. While they are carnivorous animals, they feed on smaller fish, turtles and other sea creatures significantly smaller than them and they have never really been seen attacking a human. However, life in captivity has a toll on their psyche, and numerous cases have been recorded where orcas attack their trainers and those attacks can potentially (and have been) fatal. It can be explained by the damage done to their mental health when they are forced to perform tricks and act in unnatural ways. One of those ways includes the fact that they are not offered enough opportunities for social interactions they are otherwise exposed to, as they live in very tight pods while in the wild.
Moreover, orcas are actually exceedingly intelligent. That becomes evident to the observers when orcas perform various complicated tricks, however, a lot of their brain capacity goes unnoticed as humans are simply unaware or unwilling to understand how to truly stimulate the brain of this magnificent creature.
The overall picture is that these animals are lonely, do not get to use their intellectual capacity and are physically deprived of activities that would maintain them healthy and feeling well. As such, there is no surprise they lash out at their trainers and misbehave – they are simply extremely unhappy when held captive with the sole purpose of human admiration.