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Feb. 25 2010 - 9:53 pm | 980 views | 3 recommendations | 7 comments

Orcas Don’t Want Anyone Riding On Their Noses

From source: Two mammal-eating "transient...

Image via Wikipedia

This is the sort of thing that seems perfectly obvious only after someone loses an eye.

You take 32 feet of muscle, teeth and brains out of the ocean, put it in a featureless tank the size of Graceland, force it to act like an idiot in public, and it’ll drown a captor.

Huh. I guess it makes sense that an orca whale will eventually act out. Look at what captivity did to John McCain.

‘They get very stressed out,’ marine biologist Nancy Black of Monterey Bay Whale Watch said

via Biologists: Killer whales ‘neurotic’ in captivity – CNN.com.

I’m referring, of course, to the whale known as Tilikum, which killed its SeaWorld Orlando trainer, Dawn Brancheau, Feb. 24.

Orcas are to predators what jet fighters are to tanks. While everyone else if fighting in a 2-D world, Orcas work in groups to round up prey that can flee in 3-D. They are intelligent animals who get caught up with the wrong crowd — people who like animals to entertain them.

Same for porpoises and dolphins and seals.

And yet, when they snap, oh, what a tragedy. How can this be prevented? What can be done for these noble entertainers who have big waggy tongues and who splash us with cold salty water and who carry people on their noses.

It’s terrible that the trainer was killed, but unless she was less intelligent than the animals she prodded, she knew that keeping orcas captive was wrong and stupid.

It’s a miracle this doesn’t happen more often. I’d like to think there are some whales in Orlando right now saying to each other, “Yeah, he’s a jerk, but Tilikum has a point. Next one that stands on me won’t need shoes ever again.”

I guess the good news here is that SeaWorld won’t be putting Tilikum down (It’s not his fault) or releasing him to the wild (He’s box-office gold, now).

There’s just the matter of finding a new trainer.


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  1. collapse expand

    I read a report that said that since the capture of wild Orcas has been made illegal, that the cash value of each captive animal has risen to 2 million dollars apiece. If true- and it sounds true- it says a lot about this incident; and us, as a species.

  2. collapse expand

    I think (forgive if I am wrong) that you had something up about a tall glass with water that crows could not reach, yet they had capacity to drop stones in the glass till the water reose enough to drink- what i am getting at Jim is there is real evidence now pointing to animals able to think- this guy knows what he is doing I think, accident my ass. What do you think?

    • collapse expand

      Right. There’s all kinds of evidence that some species of mammals plan, cheat and lie. And what some birds are able to do is just plain weird. Oh, and what about honey ants, which cultivate fungus?

      Wouldn’t it be something if, after all is said and done, we found out that humans rose by copying the behaviors of other animals? Our only original thoughts were the creation of Playboy and deep-fried whole turkeys.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    If your point is that a Killer Whale, killed someone, and I am supposed to be surprised by that, then I am completely with you.

    Your remark about John McCain is pretty snarky. If this where a political piece then I would let it go, as it would not be out of the norm for what passes as political discussions these days. However the remark is totally out of the context of the article, it is personal and not about his politics, and derogatory about his military service.

  4. collapse expand

    They truly are magnificant animals and their only justification for imprisoning them is for research and entertainment, which leads to making people more conscience of these animals plight against man’s environmental destruction.

    Your article is right on, but I could have done without the “John McCain” reference. Hopefully this was only an attempt at humor and not a slam at a man that sacrificed his mental and physical well being and dedicated his life, militarily and in public service to his country.

  5. collapse expand

    Killer whales in the wild swim between 75 – 100 miles a day. To term them neurotic when held captive in swimming pools is probably an understatement. They are likely depressed as hell.

    Am I being I anthropomorphic here? Maybe, but consider they have very similar brain structure to that of humans, only larger. The details of what goes on inside those brains is obviously different from ours, but these highly social and intelligent creatures are cognizant and demonstrate social bonds that exceed that of humans. In fact, to answer you tacit question:

    “It’s terrible that the trainer was killed, but unless she was less intelligent than the animals she prodded, she knew that keeping orcas captive was wrong and stupid.”

    Top Five Reasons Orcas are smarter than humans:

    1. They swim with their families their entire lives, roughly the same life span as a human’s.

    2. Orca’s do not pollute their environment.

    3. They can communicate across thousands of miles
    without cell phone towers.

    4. They don’t start wars with other orca’s from different sub-species, they just avoid them.

    5. They don’t confuse politics with science. (E.G., your reference to McCain)

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    A journalist, photographer and gentleman, I've covered science, technology, public policy, business and Battlestar Galactica. I travel extensively throughout the US chronicling the beauty of entropy -- something the marketer in me calls entrophy.

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