In response to the wonderfully long book that voiceofthedistantsea was kind enough to leave me
Hello, thanks for the (long!) debate worthy questions! I was excited to see more things I had not considered come up and I answered them with articles and personal knowledge. You can take what I say with a grain of salt—or whatever—what this matter ultimately comes down to is if you believe having animals in captivity is beneficial or not. I STRONGLY support the proper management of any animal not only in a zoological setting but on Game Lands, Ranches, and even the small fractions of “wild” settings that are left in this world.
First I’d like to ask what anti-captivity people classify as “tricks”? I of course, like to refer to “tricks” as behaviors myself. For behaviors we typically either shape a behavior from a previously learned behavior (like turning a touch to a target pole into the jumps you see dolphin perform) , or capturing (there we capture a behavior an animal offers us like sit or stay). I see husbandry behaviors taught as both capture and shaping and I’ve seen natural behaviors shaped into the grand demonstrations seen in all zoological settings with animals whether it be high flying killer whales or dancing flamingos.
You say that there is a very big difference between working at a zoo as an informative person who speaks of conservation and working at a zoo that has its animals do some sort of interaction with it’s keepers for the public. In fact you state that “[you] do believe TRUE NON PREFORMANCE ZOOS do make a difference”. This confuses me, you see, because I’m not really sure what defines and good zoo and a bad zoo under your terms. If I understand what you’re saying, the only good zoos are the ones who do not have performances. I would have to disagree as I know plenty of zoos with preforming animal shows (remember you said preforming and I’m going to assume any animal being asked to do a behavior in front of a large number of guests is preforming as that is what I define preforming as) that have made a significant impact in their local area and/or beyond. Even if a zoo does not have “preformances” they still train behaviors other than husbandry behaviors. Training is a way to get minds stimulated, there are keepers that even train alligators using +R if you could believe it! It’s a pretty cool topic one of my first lecturers spoke on!
You also say that “most of the animals at a zoo are not extremely social, wildly self aware and vibrantly intelligent non human PERSONS.” I have to disagree. The zoological park I work for has almost all the self aware, intelligent non-human persons. We are fortunate have a very large and diverse zoological stock because we are well respected in the AZA and Wildlife Conservation community. not only that but a lot of zoos contain at least two or more of these animals and self recognitions tests are still being preformed on otter animals constantly. It is believed that bees might have some sort of self awareness! How crazy is that?!
You also say that not everyone who wants to be a dolphin trainer is thinking about conservation of wildlife, but I didn’t say every single person I meet has the same ideals I had as a kid—just a good portion of them. Zoos certainly get in guests who simply just want to play with animals all day…but after a very short time in this field…you can sorta can pick out the meanings of what guests want by the way they structure their sentences.
- Now for the part where I hope you don’t discredit anything I have to say—because I will own up that I’ve worked for SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.
As a previous Seaworld employee in BOTH the education/conservation department AND zoological department I assure you that in no way does working at SeaWorld mean reading a script (unless your in show) It also DOES NOT MEAN I spent my free time memorizing the answers to any given question on the AnimalBytes pages alone. In fact, one of my favorite supervisors always says “the science world—it’s always changing and flip flopping opinions so you need to read every article there is on whatever it is that interests you and maybe we can get those guests walking out with a sense of wanting to know more” I was never misleading people with false information such as but not limited do: age of the animals in the wild (Dr. Todd admitted that age was poor in the past but his and Dr. Rose’s eventual statistics showed longevity increasing and as a zookeeper I see that as success in a management program), what dorsal fins are made of (pretty sure I told the guests it was made up of soft tissue (cartilage) with no bones to support the weight of itself as they do get quite large on males), who the original baby shamu is (I keep seeing people say this?? I’m not really sure where this came from? Honestly?).
I argue that you saying SeaWorld doesn’t do “a lot of rehabilitation” is a silly statement because as a conservation major I recognize that any and all rehabilitation is substantial in times like these. You also say it does not donate enough money into conservation but you forget about the money spent to pay employees, feed and care for the animals, and most people don’t know that people SeaWorld spends $$$ sending it’s trainers, keepers, and other qualified employees on expeditions, outreach programs, research trips, ect. I’ve had multiple co-workers travel abroad at the expsense of SeaWorld to write about conservation efforts in other countries/zoos/ect.
I’m sure the founder of SeaWorld replied SeaWorld is entertainment because one of SeaWorld’s many motto’s trhough the years has been “entertain to educate”.
Yes, I am trying to argue a point for SeaWorld while I work at a zoo where I do make a difference because I use the same scientific basis as I did when I was working for Seaworld. Ask questions. Seek out laws, guidelines, and scientific articles about the situations I’m looking into. While doing so I’ve found many problems that are certainly not black and white—just like the issue you wrote to me.
You say SeaWorld floundered when asked direct questions but I saw them pulling out scientific articles, handing them to Naomi and the two other San Diego Voice people…I saw Naomi brought no hard-copies with her. So as a scientist, I’m just supposed to take her word for whatever she had to say? You say the trainer had to resort to pulling the foster-kid sob story, but I have plenty of personal stories about kids I’ve managed to inspire that also make me cry. As do a lot of animal care specialists all the way from veterinarians to volunteers. You say it was forced acting and the reason you know it is because you took some drama courses… I am a California State Thespian via Troupe 1683 and I wouldn’t even try and say what I saw was true emotion because just like we shouldn’t give emotions to animals—we can give emotions to other people because you have no idea what any of those people up on that stage were thinking. Acting or not. Either way everyone on that stage was passionate—who cares if someone cried?
You say what we get out of the debate was a lot of Todd not being able to answer any questions directly, having graphs made up of incomplete information but when Rose brought the incompleteness up, SeaWorld produced another graph with the complete information. As for the vet not knowing how to answer question about Skyla he was not involved in the process—I don’t try to claim to know why the other keepers do what they do with their animals care and they don’t try to claim to know what I do when I make a big change in my animals care. and as for being very rude about Keiko, to the host I’ll admit—I was a little confused at this moment.
You say Todd was rude in the debate and he did interrupt a lot (as well as members of the audience, like wow on both sides) BUT on the other hand—Naomi had a few moments as well that were dripping with sarcasm and she often acted like she had not a care in the world to hear from Todd or the trainer present….
You say “they lied boldfaced about even pictures they brought to the debate- Stating that ‘x animal has worn its teeth to the gums’ While Naomi looked at the picture and showed the audience (We could even see it from where we were looking!) that the animals teeth were not, in fact, ground down to the gums” and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure the original topic being discussed was pulp exposure? The topic on teeth kept flip-flopping from gums back to pulp if I remember correctly but this was a point the audience was acting up…I kept hearing gums and pulp being said. I couldn’t tell from the webcam either because Naomi flashed the picture and then something happened—I think the Audience started shouting—and it was hard for me to tell. But I’ll take your word for it that the teeth weren’t worn to the gums.
You also say “ Naomi Rose swept the floor with them with true, sourced material and real research” but as someone who loves debates—I noticed she literally did not offer the panel from Voice of San Diego a single piece of paper of the research she was talking about and Todd had them right there, for people to read in person to hand to the panel. You said that “Todd liked to say that taking fecal samples from captive orcas would somehow be easier than getting them from wild populations. That is in effect true, however, the wild populations have a better diet”, I’m gonna have to cut in here because what is “in effect is true”? No, I’m sorry, but I personally think it’s easier to get fecal samples from a killer whale in managed care…and then you say “wild populations have a better diet” (but please click here). SeaWorld feeds it’s animals restaurant quality sustainable fish.
Also, you say that blood samples also would prove less helpful, because most of their animals are inbred, hybrids, or otherwise not a good example of the types found in the wild but blood samples aren’t just about genetics, and the biological principal of orcas are relatively the same. There is a lot that could benefit wild populations like (and not limited too) healthy certain hormone levels, healthy white blood cell count, catching blood-bourne pathogens, and so on and so forth that in turn could help us if one of the wild orcas falls in need of rehabilitation. Thanks to a healthy captive situation to use as a *normal, veterinarians can completely figure out the problem faster because they have the average PH levels, blood oxygen levels, ect ect ect). And I’m saying this just from what I learned in Pathology and Disease last year. I’m no vet.
Then you go on to knocking my intelligence by saying “Please tell me you are intelligent enough to see Todd was pulling for virtual strings when he kept bringing up different sub species of orcas-“. So thanks for hoping I was intelligent. I hope I am too. And what I took from Todd listing all the orcas was that there were so many different types of orcas—the orcas born in managed care are different too. You are right because a wild orca with a varied diet is going to wear its teeth out over the course of its long life. But you say “Todd failed to mention that the animals in the parks are fed very tiny herring that the animals do not chew, but swallow whole" If you click "swallow whole" you will see that’s normal for fish eaters. Trainers know to feed a variety of diets, no matter what animals they take care of, just like you know you need protein, carbs, and water. Most zoos either have a vet directing the nutrition or an actual animal nutritionist that controls what the animals eat to make sure they are getting a balanced diet.
As for you statement about chewing on concrete and metal bars as being the cause of their teeth breaking I would like to see photo/video evidence of the whales doing this besides the 1990 article that mentions it? And not in the past when management was poor, I want to see it happening now, with this generation of whales. A part of a trainers job is to check for tooth wear—anything deemed problematic for the animal is looked at by the vet who then determines the next step. Dental care is a necessity to maintaining healthy animals—which is what you say you want.You say dental care doesn’t happen in the wild and you are right, because it’s the wild. But since the animals are in our care…dental hygiene is important as are all husbandry procedures..
Just as an interesting note, I do believe SeaWorld might be publishing an article soon about how providing new and exciting enrichment had decreased undesired behaviors for many animals A LOT in the recent years. Even animals considered domestic.
I fully believe in the ability of an animal to adapt to a new environment no matter what they are adapting too. We as trainers have a say in if a young animal can be separated as per the Species Survival Plan dictates or if they need a few more years and we think the animals need to mature some more. Animals aren’t just moved on a genetics basis either—it’s on a social basis as well. You say that some daughters of a certain whale type do periodically leave, but they always return to visit their mother pods and I think of giraffe females who in the wild, stay within their mothers herd area their whole life, but sometimes zoos separate mother and daughter…just like SeaWorld does sometimes with it’s killer whales. So should zoos stop moving animals around to create a better genetically varied population? Because zoos and aquariums move animals to maintain genetic diversity and stable social environments. I’m going to continue being okay with zoos and aquariums moving their animals to try and maintain a healthy genetic pool.
You said you think “the family pods at SeaWorld are so fundamentally messed up it isn’t even funny, its a sad, sick joke of what a true pod would be” but while I see that you obviously have a set idea on what a pod in managed care should look like, let me let you know that the animal care professionals who are with those killer whales every second of everyday are the only ones who have the right to say if their killer whale pod is a "true pod"…whatever you might define a "true pod" to be…unless you mean a "real" pod…since you like throwing the world "real" around. I don’t know about you but based on breathing, sporadic movements, and vocalizations that’s a real pod of killer whales right there.
You say SeaWorld claims that they never removed babies from their mothers who were still dependent on their mothers and I find this to be true—even with Sumar who was taken from his mother at ten months old—you say she acted aggressive towards him. They removed him for his safety because he could no longer depend on his mother. I see nothing wrong with this. I don’t think it’s right for you to say that aggression doesn’t happen in the wild either. Calves go missing all the time in the wild and unless those awesome and dedicated scientists are with those pods 24/7 with cameras that go hundreds of feet deep—you cannot tell me mother/calf aggression does not happen in the wild as well.
As for Sumar not reaching “life expectancy”…not all the orcas in the wild do either. You say he died from septicemia (can I see a necropsy paper of this documented please? I can’t find a valid one, and SeaWorld stated he died from intestinal volvulus which has a number of causes not associated with managed care), which is a bacterium from the blood/lungs/heart/bone that quickly overtakes the body. Can you find the vet necropsy that states what kind of septicemia he passed away from? Certain kinds are a result of poor management—others not so much.
(Which is EEE-KOW-type not ECHO-type, btw) Why did you add this in here? I’m confused. Did someone in the debate mispronounce a word? And if they did—so what? I’m not making fun of Naomi for going off on what seemed like a 20-minute talk on what I think was about automobile failure…
And this is my favorite part…that you wrote to me: "I guess what I’m trying to say in all this is that, while it is a valiant effort on your part to really push for conservation awareness at YOUR job in a zoological establishment”
So because I might work at a zoo that is up to your opinion of what a ‘good’ zoo is, me spreading conservation awareness is okay at my zoo but if I were spreading the SAME exact message at SeaWorld? It’s suddenly not okay? because a lot of us keepers and trainers say a lot of the same things about conservation and animal facts and scientific articles.
And then you go on to say how people will go to shows and become inspired to be anti-cap (Okay, cool!) and people who come away from the show just wanting to swim with these amazing animals (those poor souls think it’s all about playing with dolphins…) and how people will also become like me, inspired to do what you call “real conservation” (Not to be confused with fake conservation?).
Again, what I’m getting from what your saying is that it’s okay to promote the same messages that SeaWorld does at my zoo because it’s what you deem as a good zoo based on whatever you consider “no performance” standards? And another kicker from your riveting book to me on my post about why I clearly support zoos—YOU say that SeaWorld “drove one ecotype of orcas into endangered status from all the captures and deaths during those captures…” I actually did some of my undergraduate study on the Recovery Plan for Southern Resident Killer Whales listed under the ESA and the NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) states on the very first page of their Recovery Plan that “The Southern Resident distinct population segment (DPS) experienced an almost 20 percent decline from 1996 to 2001” which is way after SeaWorld was doing wild captures. But that’s not all their paper says. It states that “The major threats identified…[to the whales] were prey availability, pollution and contaminants, and effects from vessels and sound.” And also my favorite quote from the article “There is considerable uncertainty regarding which threats [major or minor] may be responsible for the decline in the population or which is the most important to address for recovery. The plan lays out an adaptive management approach and a recovery strategy that addresses each of the potential threats based on the best available science.” As in the NMS is certainly not saying the Southern Residents are listed as endangered because of SeaWorld capturing whales in the 1970’s and 80’s. There is “considerable uncertainty” as to why the population saw decline. And at this moment—wildlife managers are working to figure out how to decrease the ACTUAL major threats listed on that recovery plan.
You repeat yourself a lot, and I don’t feel like repeating myself on longevity, undesirable behaviors, ect.
You say non-performance zoos do make an effort to teach about the animals and yes, ALL ZOOS, the reason they are around, is that they reach out to the public in educational discussions with live animals in front of one or more guests at planned times throughout the day…and you know what we call them ay my facility? Shows. or Keeper Talks. or Interactions…but we teach while the animals preform behaviors we ask them to do in order to show off their beauty and grace…or they play with enrichment we made for them. Please emphasis what you consider “preforming” because personally, I’m not grasping on your “non-preformance” zoos?
Then you go on to say that “many zoos do a great deal of REAL rehabilitation and release back into the wild”. I’ve noticed you keep saying "real". I would also like to note that all the animals seaworld has released…aren’t exactly animatronic and are living, breathing, creatures. So yes, SeaWorld does make a difference. Even small acts, bring big rewards.
Next you tell me: “On that note, SeaWorld failed to mention that JJ the gray whale’s GPS tracker intentionally was left off when the animal was released. No one checked up on her, no one kept any tabs on the animal, and it is widely accepted that JJ died shortly after release but SeaWorld, as usual, will say nothing about it.” Okay, widely accepted by who? Because most newspapers and even the WDC state that JJ was fitted with a radio transmitter. Also, cetaceans shed and will shed their skin…so using an old fashioned satellite tracker like back when JJ was rescued—yeah it was gonna fall off. They were glued onto the skin. I’m pretty sure some research places still use this method (updated of course) to track seals and sea lions. You are the first person I’ve heard put a twist on JJ’s tale, so kudos to you on wherever you got that story from.
You use the words “good zoo” again and I’m still trying to gather what kind of zoo you like. I’m guessing you’d prepare a list of acceptable animals in a zoo if I asked, and an exact definition of what you consider a performance. Hopefully what your favorable zoo doesn’t do is lack a lot of megafauna, which leads to increased interest in conservation.
You say that the animals at SeaWorld are forced to live in a tank that is featureless but if you weren’t aware they did have features but at the request to make the environment ‘safer’ features were dismantled for the time being and hopefully one day will return in some form or fashion.
I think I stated this before but you can’t force an animal like a killer whale or a gorilla or any behemoth sized animal to do anything really. Heck, I even have to ask my dog to allow me to give her a nail trim, because I train on the basis that I want the animals to succeed. I’ve been to zoos where animals weren’t on exhibit or in shows because they didn’t want to work. I’ve worked with animals that have shown me behaviors that in my head equal “nope no interactions today”.
I disagree that the whales are forced to preform everyday because the whales are probably cared for like the rest of the animals in managed care at seaworld and all of the animals that were ever in my care were given days off. And as mentioned in the paragraph above, they don’t “force” their animals to do anything, especially their pregnant females. As a swimmer in high school I am aware of the effect of water hitting your stomach does I a belly flop—but—if we’re thinking about this possibly hurting the unborn calves—why are calves still surviving then? I’m sure that if I felt that one of my pregnant animals was not being cared for properly, I would speak up about it. You have a valid point of concern for pregnant animals but again—is preforming in the shows hurting the unborn calves? There is no actual scientific evidence and since females are preforming pregnant in educational shows today and still giving birth to healthy young…I’m gonna go with no.
You say “non performance zoos [don’t breed like [seaworld]] and all I have to say is that I’ve never been to a non-preforming zoo but I lack experience in that area—you must’ve gone the by way you carry on about them. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that seaworld is accredited and I find no problems with their breeding if they are following the SSP for captive killer whales.
Oh my gawd you must have a lot of this pretyped because I’ve literally been working on this rebuttal for HOURS and my fingers are SORE.
You say all these reasons are the wrong way to spread the idea of conservation. You say this is not a species we should keep in facilities like zoos or performing circus-esque shows
(I’ll admit that every time I see Blue Horizons I want to get a time-turner and go back to Dolphin Discovery). You ask me why Aquariums don’t keep Great White Sharks? It’s because they fail to thrive. Yeah, I know all about the Monterey Bay Aquarium trying to keep Great Whites because I went to the aquarium and learned about it. I love that aquarium. Speaking of the Monterey Bay Aquarium…did you know in that debate Naomi Rose stated MBAQ didn’t have any Marine Mammals? Guess she forgot about those sea otters! Woops!
You say the whales “are being replaced, dime a dozen, under peoples noses” and I’m confused—replaced? The NMFS is not allowing international imports (as seen with beluga whales) so unless SeaWorld is illegally collecting whales from our USA local populations in the middle of the night and not getting caught—and I would be alongside you protesting if that were even realistic—the whales aren’t being ‘replaced dime a dozen’. Last I saw, the same killer whale I interacted with when I was 9 is still living at SeaWorld San Diego and has what—four? healthy, viable calves.
You say at least one dies at the parks every year but if I recall SeaWorld hasn’t lost a whale since Sumar? I could be wrong as I don’t really keep up to date with individual whales…you also say SeaWorld doesn’t talk about when whales die but they send out press releases. They certainly don’t cover it up.
“If SeaWorld cared so much, wouldn’t it be doing everything it could to make the lives of its current orca more bearable…wouldn’t they set up some kind of retirement plan for them?”
SeaWorld offered in the debate to take manageable solutions/suggestions to the ‘problems’ you and Naomi Rose see as issues…without the introduction of seapens.
“know it costs less to go on a whale watching trip than it does to go to SeaWorld?” Not for my family. My dad was Navy and we got into SeaWorld free once a year, we’d even leave a packed lunch in the car to go back to so we didn’t have to pay restaurant fees. Also a lot of other zoological companies offer free admission to Military and even sometimes teachers! I have NOTHING against whale-watching cruises, I enjoy them depending on the company providing them, but as of right now, Seaworld is a cheaper option for me.
“They could make huge, amazing ocean pens for the animals that incapable of surviving in the wild or not capable of being rehabilitated and later released- they could even charge people to see the animals in these large retirement pens, for a couple hours a day, no tricks, no performing. And no forced breeding. Let the animals live out what’s left of their lives in peace, feeling the rhythms of the ocean, and perhaps even having their pens stocked with live fish and being taught to capture them on their own.” I think Dr. Todd stated my feelings about Sea Pens very well, and Dr. Rose’s feelings…No forced breeding? What if they do breed? What happens with that calf? What whales are going to live with what whales? Who will pay for the upkeep of the pens? What about new bacteria managed born animals had not been introduced to at an early age to build of defenses? What about sun protection? Where would the money go that SeaWorld was charging people? Oil leakage?
'If you love animals” you started your last statement with a powerful kicker right in the gut that IF I love animals THEN I will "not buy a ticket" or "not stand with seaworld"
You could’ve ended that entirely too long post with “can’t wait to see your rebuttal” or “just some thoughts for you to consider” but instead you started telling me that if I love animals, then I shouldn’t continue supporting a place that has sparked hundreds of millions of imaginations in 50 years.
But you know what?
If you love animals, that’s cool. I love them too. Do not try and force your beleifs onto my post that was clearly pro-zoo that clearly stated why I felt I was making a difference—and some of those inspiring things were with SeaWorld parks. So don’t tell me what I can and cannot do with my money. Don’t tell me who and what I should believe in.
We are both passionate about animals but with different ideals how of to use that passion. Go ahead and debate, but do not reblog my personal posts telling ME what I should and should not believe, questioning my intelligence, and then giving my carpel tunnel as I sit here and type this final sentence up to you, because I have animals to go take care of and people to inspire.