Op-Ed: The Sad, Captive Life of SeaWorld’s Newborn Killer Whale

Takepart.comMarch 12, 2013

Last month, SeaWorld, a chain of amusement parks in the United States, announced the birth of a yet-unnamed male orca at its San Diego facility. 

Born within the walls of an amusement park, the life of this newborn orca will be a far cry from the life of his free-roaming counterparts. He will undoubtedly be incorporated into the amusement park’s marine mammal training program, which transforms these independent top predators of the sea into performing pets dependent on their human keepers for food and attention.

The orca is the largest member of the dolphin family and the largest animal ever to be taken into captivity. With about 20 orcas at its three theme parks, SeaWorld is the largest owner of captive orcas in the world. 

The dolphin captivity industry time and again refers to captive orcas as “ambassadors of the sea.” But how are spectators supposed to learn anything about the true nature of orcas by looking at SeaWorld’s performing orcas that were captured from the wild or were born inside a tank and have never seen the ocean?


The newborn calf at SeaWorld’s San Diego theme park was reportedly fathered by the Argentinian orca named Kshamenk. He was captured in 1992 when he was between four and six years old and is being held in solitary confinement at the Argentinian amusement park Mundo Marino. 

Several attempts have been made by animal welfare organizations, including Earth Island Institute, to convince authorities that Kshamenk should be returned to the ocean, so far to no avail.

The commercial value of Kshamenk as a sperm donor for captive dolphin facilities such as SeaWorld could be a strong motive for Mundo Marino to insist that he must remain in captivity.

For the rest of the story, head on over to The Dolphin Project.

Related Stories on TakePart:

• EXCLUSIVE: SeaWorld Appeals Ruling in Trainer's Death, Eyewitness Interviews Released

• Shouka, ‘World’s Loneliest Whale,’ Relocated to SeaWorld San Diego

• Killer Whale Custody Battle: Who Really Owns Morgan the Orca?

Helene O'Barry is the Program Associate for the Dolphin Project. She is married to longtime dolphin conservationist, Ric O'Barry.