How many more apologies must we hear from aquariums and marine parks regarding the death of yet another “beloved” captive dolphin or other whale?
Sadly, such announcements seem to be endless.
Today, Loro Parque, a zoo in the Canary Islands of Spain, announced the death of Ula, an orca born in captivity to parents Morgan and Keto. Born on September 22, 2018, her death comes just shy of her third birthday, a life wholly spent in a concrete tank amongst other captive orcas.
Says Loro Parque:
Ula’s mother, Morgan was found swimming alone off the Dutch coast in June 2010. The emaciated orca was captured and taken to Harderwijk dolphinarium where she was held for over a year. In November 2011, after a Dutch court decided that returning Morgan to the ocean was not an option, she was sent to Loro Parque where she has been held captive ever since. The decision came even after orca experts had formulated a detailed plan for Morgan’s release and reunion with her family. And, despite an appeal hearing held in front of the Dutch High Court in December 2013, this decision was upheld.
Read more: Loro Parque’s ‘Blackfish’ is Pregnant by Helene O’Barry
Her father, Keto, was born at SeaWorld’s theme park in Orlando, Florida, in 1995. In 2006, he was sent to Loro Parque. His mother is Kalina, who was also born in captivity. Kalina’s mother, Katina, was captured in Iceland at about two years of age. Kalina’s father, known as Winston, was a wild-caught Southern resident orca who is now dead. Keto’s father, Kotar, was wrestled from his mother off the coast of Iceland in 1978 when he was between one and two years old.
Read more: Loro Parque Blames Activists for Whale Captures by Helene O’Barry
In the wild, these highly intelligent mammals live within a complex social structure, their pods comprised of matrilineal family groups. Knowledge is passed down through generations, with behaviors specific to each pod, similar to what we consider culture. Some of these family units remain together their entire lives, always within hearing distance of one another. Living to 70 years or more is not uncommon. In fact, the world’s oldest known orca, nicknamed “Granny”, was estimated to be over 100 years old at the time of her death in January 2017.
Captivity removes these complex mammals from their natural environment, separates them from their close-knit families, and deprives them of all natural behaviors.
In the case of Ula, instead of being taught by Morgan and other members of her pod skills and behaviors necessary for survival, she was raised to perform for paying tourists. Never experiencing the rhythms of the sea. Never learning about her own lineage. And now, she has been added to the list of dead dolphins and other whales whose lives have been decimated as a result of captivity.
“The fundamental right of orcas to remain wild and free in the vast ocean world that has shaped their existence over millions of years is cruelly violated time and again by the dolphinarium industry that apparently sees it as its main goal to convince paying audiences that orcas thrive in concrete tanks, far away from their natural home.” ~ Helene O’Barry
Featured image: Ula, Loro Parque, Spain. Credit: Loro Parque/Facebook