SeaWorld’s Video Response To Blackfish Movie: The Importance Of Killer Whale Social Structures
On January 13, 2014 SeaWorld released a video on their Youtube account titled “The Importance of Killer Whale Social Structures – The Truth Is In Our Parks and People”. The spokes person used in the video is Chuck Tompkins, VP of animal training at SeaWorld Orlando. Mr. Tompkins has been with SeaWorld since February of 1978.
The video starts out by stating “There’s a statement in Blackfish made that we separate our calves and mother killer whales and that is far from the truth. We recognize the importance of family bond.”
Mr. Tompkins statement is far from the truth if you look the family bonds being broken, as to date there have been at least 18 orcas in captivity under the care of SeaWorld that have been separated from their mother. The youngest known orca Keet, was separated from his mother was only 1 year, 8 months old at the time of his separation. In the wild Keet would have lived his entire life span with his mother.
Chuck Tompkins is very aware of how many orcas have been separated from their families as I mentioned previously he has been with SeaWorld since 1978. Nine of these babies were males and would have spent their entire lives with their mother in the wild. The other 9 females may also have spent their entire lives with their mother and siblings creating a larger pod or some may have split away creating their own pods. SeaWorld did not recognize the importance of family bonds for these babies and mothers.
M – Ikaika- MO -separated from mother at 4 years, 2 months
F – Kayla- SW -separated from mother at 2 years, 2 months
M – Keet- SW -separated from mother at 1 year, 8 months
M – Keto- LP -separated from mother at 3 years, 9 months
F – Kohana- LP -separated from mother at 3 years, 9 months
F – Shouka- SF -separated at 9 years
F – Skyla- LP -separated from mother at 2 years old
F – Takara- SW -separated from mother at 12 years, 8 months
M – Tekoa- LP -separated from mother at 3 years, 4 months
M – Trua- SW -separated from mother when he was 3 years, 2 months
M – Tuar- SW -separated from mother at 4 years, 10 months
F – Unna- SW -separated from mother at 6 years
F – Halyn- SW -separated from mother immediately due to mother’s rejection
F – Kalina- SW -separated from mother at 4 years, 4 mos; reunited at 9 years
F – Katerina- SW -separated from mother at 2 years, 5 months
M – Splash- SW -separated from mother at 2 years, 6 months
M – Sumar- SW -separated from mother at 10 months old
M – Taku- SW -separated from mother at 13 years, 2 months; died 11 months later
Did Chuck Tompkins forget about the four captive born SeaWorld orcas which have been placed on loan from SeaWorld Inc. to Loro Parque in Spain (2006) and currently still reside there, which were all taken from their mothers and sent to another country with NO adult matriarch to teach them orca culture? Did he forget to mention the disruption they created for the babies when they broke any of the bonds these babies made with the other artificially created pod members they had made prior to be taken to Loro Parque? Skyla was only 2 yrs old when she was taken from her mom and placed at Loro Parque, Kohana was just 3 yrs and 9 months when taken from her mom to be sent to Loro Parque, Takoa was already separated from his mom at the age of 3 years and 4 months before going to Loro Parque and Keto was 3 years and 9 months and he too had already been separated from his mom before going to Loro Parque. Keto would later kill his trainer.
SeaWorld would learn how devastating it would be to these 4 babies to be removed and taken to Loro Parque over the next few years. You can learn more about these four separated baby orcas in article called “A Close-Up Look At Loro Parque” written by Tim Zimmermann. One of these four Orcas Keto would go on to kill his trainer, Alexi Martinez, which is touched upon briefly in the movie Blackfish as well as in an article I wrote back in 2011 titled “Orca Trainer Alexis Martinez, Death at Loro Parque Caused By Known Aggression”
I would like to take this time to state SeaWorld began taking part in capturing orcas from the wild around 1966. During these captures it was VERY clear to all involved the family bond between babies and mothers, actually entire pod members was extremely important and the social structure was one man had rarely seen in animals. During the captures the pod members would circle the netted orcas refusing to leave. Witness statements recalled include:
“The Munros were in their sailboat that day. They watched the violent whale capture and heard the whales inside and outside the nets, crying to one another in their little-understood language.
I was on the shoreline, a (Evergreen State College) student, working as a reporter for the Cooper Point Journal, and was struck deeply by those same eerie cries. Those sounds are etched in my memory and the Munros’ memories forever.
“When we went sailing and saw this accidentally, it changed our lives,” Munro said.
In this video taken from a segment from the nationally syndicated, Emmy Award-winning 1999 special, “Baby Wild Films Presents: The Killer Whale People,” hosted by Heart’s Nancy Wilson you will here recounted stories of how horrible the captures in 1970 were for the men capturing the orcas, as well as for the mothers who were losing their babies and other family members. SeaWorld was well aware at this time of the orcas social structure between mothers and babies and as well with other pod members. The importance of keeping mothers and babies and even full pod family members together is not new information for SeaWorld nor is it current information they have learned from the actual act of keeping orcas in captivity. SeaWorld learned this from capturing them 40 years ago, yet they still separated orca families in captivity for all these years.
If not for Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro who witnessed one of these captures these captures and separation of family members would have continued. Munro describes a tragic story of whaling and brutal captures that split apart whale pods and resulted in the collateral damage deaths of dozens of marine animals. During the capture Munro witnessed an aircraft and explosives being used to confuse the orcas. Munro subsequently filed a lawsuit that led to an agreement with SeaWorld to stay out of Puget Sound. In this video Ralph Munro speaks publically about the captures he witnessed and how he and others stopped SeaWorld from taking more orcas from the U.S. waters in Washington.
“We currently have Katina with two of her babies in the pool and we recognize this and keep them together as a family. We also have the largest data base of information about calves and how they relate with their mother, and when they do their independence, when they nurse when they stop nursing, all that we’ve learned from having these family groups together, but as a zoological professional it is NOT True we separate our mothers and calves ”
Yes, currently they have Katina with her two babies but is this due to public pressure and the mounting evidence against SeaWorld regarding the lack of consideration they have held for so many years regarding orca family bonds? Katina has seven immediate offspring not two. Mr. Tompkins shared with us only two of the offspring that she is living with, what about the other 5? Katina also has nine, as we would call them grandchildren, did you hear any mention of those that she is living with? If Katina was allowed to have developed her own pod, as of her breeding in the hands of SeaWorld, it could have consisted of 17 members including herself. Katina has never been allowed to be with her entire off spring to feel the power of the pod she could have been the matriarch to. Instead SeaWorld has moved her offspring to other parks to create new “pods” for people to be entertained in other parts of the world.
So I question and ask others to question the statement “but as a zoological professional it is NOT True we separate our mothers and calves” which came directly from Chuck Tompkins representative for SeaWorld.
One last topic I would like to just briefly touch upon is Morgan a wild caught baby orca. The goal and permit that allowed the capture to occur was to rehab and release Morgan back to the wild and if they could find her family back with her family.
SeaWorld stepped in and prevented Morgan from being rehabbed back to the wild and instead now Morgan is owned by SeaWorld and resides at Loro Parque in Spain. SeaWorld could not import Morgan to America due to current capture laws. SeaWorld found a way to gather new breeding stock from the wild and prevented Morgan from going back to her mother and pod. You can read more about Morgan through the Free Morgan website
There is no doubt the truth behind SeaWorld and the Orcas they keep in captivity is under fire and just keeps growing. One has to question the sincerity behind the motivation that has caused SeaWorld to release this new video. Will Katina remain with her babies throughout their lifetime is yet to be seen and the public needs to keep a close eye on these three captive orcas along with any others that may be born into captivity.
If you have not seen Blackfish you can view the entire documentary online free at Blackfish
I also suggest others read the book DEATH AT SEAWORLD: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity written by David Kirby
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