Thanks, but No Tanks

The first time I went to SeaWorld with my family I was young and I had a good time. There were these magnificent shows that starred sea animals – how cool is that to an 8-year-old animal lover? As I got older and made my way through zoos and other animal sanctuary’s, I noticed myself becoming less and less amused and more and more disturbed.

When I got to college I watched a documentary on Netflix called Blackfish. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you stop reading now and go do that instead. Seriously…

Official Blackfish Trailer

Anyway, if you have seen it then you know it’s about the truth behind SeaWorld. The dirty, ugly, horrible truth of the captivity of Orca whales and other creatures at SeaWorld and other theme parks like it. I remember feeling sick, absolutely sick to my stomach after watching these magnificent creatures be show-boated around like a bunch of prizes.

I watched every documentary I could, supported what charities I could afford, took whale watching tours, advocated for these animals whenever I could, and every time I drive by a SeaWorld I give ’em the bird.

My favorite Orca that I had stumbled upon and became enamored with is named Lolita. She’s in her late 50’s and she’s absolutely beautiful.

Lolita had been torn away from her family and taken to the Miami Sea Aquarium at the age of four. Something to know about Orcas is that they’re like you and I. They have emotions, ingenuity, and the ability to feel like you and I do. Orcas also talk in their own languages that belong to each of their pods or families. So imagine being torn away from your family at the age of 4 and being thrown into a tank with others of your kind, but no one speaks the same language! Call it a tank of babel if you want.

Lolita lived in a tank that was only around 20 feet deep and 60-80 feet wide when Orcas are designed by God to dive almost 1,000 feet deep and swim hundreds of miles! The scorching Miami heat is capable of severe burns on the mammals delicate skin, and Lolita suffered. She lived a life of isolation and was often found floating lifelessly in her small tank.

Her only friend throughout her life was a tank-mate named Hugo who died from ramming his head into the tank wall. Many captive animals often bang their head against the wall or cause physical harm to themselves on purpose because they’ve been driven to madness. Have you ever seen a big cat, monkey, or gorilla “dancing” at the zoo? They’re not dancing or performing for you. They’re crying for help.

So what would happen if Lolita were freed? She would surely die. She has never been taught by her pod to hunt, survive, and live in the open ocean. She was captured in Puget Sound, but would her pod still be there? Could she ever find them? It would be almost impossible, so she would still live in isolation.

Although there are many efforts to free Lolita and other captive animals just like her, there are still people who don’t understand. They’re are still people out there who plan trips to SeaWorld and other aquariums around the world!

I urge you to do your research and find an animal that calls to your heart as Lolita has called to mine. I urge you to watch Blackfish, read the story of Tilikum – one of the largest Orcas to have ever been captured, and learn about Luna – the friendliest Orca on the planet! I urge you to boycott SeaWorld and companies like them.

Also, donate to your local animal sanctuaries who actually do their part to help the environment. Sanctuaries like Cleland Wildlife Park in Australia and Disney’s Animal Kingdom have great programs you can get involved in.

I remember the first time I saw a whale in the open ocean. It was magnificent. It was a warm summer day in Seattle and I was so excited. I was going to see an Orca whale that didn’t live behind a glass wall. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any and yes I cried about it. I did see a gray whale though and I cried about that too.

This world is precious and we only get one of them. Do your part by finding a cause to be passionate about. This can be anything from picking up trash off your local high way to digging wells for children in Africa. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but it can be life-altering.

To learn more about Lolita and other captive Orcas, I highly suggest looking at the Orca Network. Take a look at this video for more info on Lolita: