SeaWorld Exposed: Behavioral Profiles of Captive Orcas

The information in this file needs to be analyzed and is perfect for theses

Posted Nov 05, 2014


SeaWorld has had numerous problems with aggressive orcas. Perhaps the best known of these amazing animals is Tillikum who killed two trainers (please see "Tilly's Willy: In the Name of Science?" and "Whales and people: Tilly is not to blame"). The outstanding and highly influential documentary Blackfish was extremely influential in publicizing all of the problems at SeaWorld.

Now, a data set called "SeaWorld Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) Profiles including aggressive tendencies," published by SeaWorld itself, is available for all to see. It's a study in "orcazoology," akin to the study of human-animal relationships in a research discipline called anthrozoology.

I want to inform a wide public about these data as they are a goldmine for studying the behavioral profiles of captive orcas, many of whom are extremely aggressive and understandably go crazy in captivity (please see "Captivity Drives Killer Whales Crazy: SeaWorld Fights Fines For Placing Profit Over Safety" and links therein).

"These animals have displayed outright dangerous behaviors toward people, and they are lucky that more people haven't been killed” 

I've gone through these files and agree with a summary written by the Clinical Animal Behavior Service at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine who concluded: "There is a lot of controversy surrounding keeping Orcas in captivity, due to their limited environment and the safety of themselves and that of people. Here is a document that summarizes the behavioral profiles of these animals in captivity. This information about their behavior toward humans has not been brought to the attention of many, but perhaps it should. All of these animals have displayed outright dangerous behaviors toward people, and they are lucky that more people haven't been killed.”

I hope that people will do more detailed analyses of these data and publish them widely. These sorts of analyses will go a long way toward understanding what is happening in the heads and hearts of orcas (and other animals) who are held in captivity and who clearly don't like it.

Watching animals in captivity is not part of rewilding one's heart, and taking a walk on the rewild side doesn't include watching animals in tiny cages. 

Note: I've just learned that SeaWorld "reported its third quarter earnings on Wednesday morning, telling shareholders its net income was $87.2 million — down from $120.7 million last year, marking a 28 percent decline."

The teaser image of Ikaika, courtesy of Leah Lemieux, can be seen at "Secrets of Killer Whale Captivity being exposed in Courts around the World."

Marc Bekoff's latest books are Jasper's story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson; see also)Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservation (see also)Why dogs hump and bees get depressed (see also), and Rewilding our hearts: Building pathways of compassion and coexistenceThe Jane effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson) will be published in 2015. (; @MarcBekoff