A new study revealing that killer whales at SeaWorld have the same life expectancy as their wild peers has sparked a new controversy.
According to the peer-reviewed paper published in the Journal of Mammalogy, killer whales held in captivity do live as long as killer whales in the wild. The marine-themed SeaWorld park has once more caught the attention of animal-rights organization, PETA.
The study looked at the life expectancy of killer whales in captivity at SeaWorld and that of wild killer whales of northern community as well as one southern community of whales, both located in the Pacific Northwest.
Overall, the researchers concluded that for the SeaWorld whales, the life expectancy extends to 41.6 years. For those whales pertaining to the southern community, the life expectancy was calculated at 29 years, while for the northern killer whales, it was reported at 42.3 years.
Killer whale calves also made the subject of the study. While wild killer whale calves are expected to survive up to the age of 2 in a proportion of 79.9 percent, calf survival rate at the SeaWorld park is 96.6 percent.
In light of this study, Todd Robeck, who is the VP of theriogenology at SeaWorld stated:
“The results demonstrate unequivocally that killer whales in captivity have similar life expectancies to those in the wild and provide invaluable knowledge concerning normal reproductive patterns of the species”.
But for PETA, the invaluable knowledge cited above reduces to a mountain of rubble if, according to official statements, the study was conducted by Robeck and two SeaWorld employees, as well as the VP of biological programs at the Minnesota Zoo.
According to PETA, a different study that features in the Marine Mammal Science journal from April 2015, concludes that orcas held in captivity have only 11.8 years life expectancy.
It is not the first time PETA takes a swing at SeaWorld theme-park. In 2013, a dispute regarding the killer whales stemmed after the release of the “Blackfish” documentary, showing how orcas are being abused and neglected.
In a quick response, the attendance rates at SeaWorld dropped. Thus, the management was changed and SeaWorld announced that killer whales would be moved in larger tanks as the building project would finalize.
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