Even today, killer whales live in captivity and die in freedom


Environment & Animals

The killer whale is one of the most popular marine mammals in the world. For decades, activists have been fighting to preserve this species. But is the situation really changing?

The orca, this well-known killer whale, was the subject of popular movements in the 80s and 90s to improve its living conditions, and so that it was no longer used as an attraction in animal parks. We know this story well. Keikothe star orca of the film Save Willy, and who was released after a mass mobilization. But what we do not necessarily know is that he never really managed to live in total independence. Released in Icelandic waters, he will die alone (while the killer whale is an animal that lives in a group) seven years after being released.

A controversial captivity

The story of the young Keiko (died at 26 years old while the life expectancy of killer whales is equivalent to that of humans), represents the fate that these marine mammals still suffer today in the world. In captivity, the fate of these beasts arouses serious attention from animal protection associations. The One Voice association, for example, initiated summary proceedings to obtain “ the appointment of an expert whose mission would have been to establish the clinical assessment of the state of two killer whales at Marineland Park. The latter defends himself from any accusation of lack of attention to cetaceans.

He even denounced to our colleagues from Nice-Matin, a ” a strategy of legal and media relentlessness carried out for several years against Marineland. One Voice takes advantage of a context where emotion often takes precedence over reason and scientific facts. ยป

Keiko, photographed in 2002 near the Norwegian coast, after being released in Iceland. Photo by GORM KALLESTAD / SCANPIX / AFP

The life of killer whales in captivity is nevertheless very controversial. Many activists have been engaged for years to denounce it. Let us think in particular of the documentary film Blackfish, which investigated the deaths of several trainers in US Seaworld parks. The killer whale, as it is called, however, has never committed this crime in nature. The only reported cases of killer whale violence on humans have occurred in captivity. A second film was released in 2019, Blackfish 2. He notes that despite the fighting for nearly two decades, the situation is still very worrying.

” The apocalypse “

The life of killer whales in captivity is controversial, and that in their natural environment is worrying. At the end of May 2022, an orca was found dead in the Seine. According to the autopsy, a bullet was found at the base of the cetacean’s skull “. If it did not cause the death of the animal, it does however raise questions about the preservation of this species in its natural environment.

10 of the 19 populations monitored by scientists show a reduction in the number of their members.

On its website, Marineland explains that ” the killer whale is not officially classified according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature in one of the “threatened” categories. Currently, it has DD status for ‘insufficient data’ but 10 of the 19 populations monitored by scientists show a reduction in the number of their members. Indeed, a study published in 2018 by the journal Science and relayed by The Guardianexplains that within thirty or forty years, half of the free orcs could thus have completely disappeared.

At the time, Paul Jepson of the Zoological Society of Londona member of the international research team behind this study, spoke of a “ apocalypse for orcs “. ” Even in healthy oceanshe specified, killer whales reproduce very slowly. Healthy killer whales need 20 years to reach sexual maturity and 18 months to bear a calf. Killer whale populations in Japan, Brazil, the North East Pacific, the Strait of Gibraltar and the UK are on the decline. The chilling observation drawn by this survey does not provide miracle solutions. The only hope, for this researcher, is that the populations of the Arctic remain and prevent the complete disappearance of the species.

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