The scientific community has long debated whether or not killer whales that live in captivity at SeaWorld get to enjoy full lives just like their peers in the wild. And now a controversial new study has found that yes, they live just as long.
The research team informs that the life expectancy of a killer whale found at SeaWorld is no less than 41.6 years. For comparison, the life expectancy of a killer whale living in the Pacific Northwest waters, the southern community, is 29 years, and the life expectancy of a killer whale living the northern community is 42.3 years.
While SeaWorld officials did not comment on whether or not the findings of the new study will be used in advertising campaigns in the future, they did not waste any time posting on the websites related to the company’s investors.
Todd Robeck, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment’s vice president of theriogenology at, gave a statement saying that the study results unequivocally demonstrate that killer whales that live in captivity at SeaWorld have a very similar lifespan to that of killer whales living in the wild. He went on to add that the study also offers invaluable information on the normal reproductive patterns of these animals.
The paper, published earlier this month in the Journal of Mammalogy,
has not been well received by the scientific community.
Many animal-welfare groups and field experts were quick to point out that the study wasn’t writer by an objective third party. Instead the authors of the new study are Todd Robeck, two other SeaWorld officials and Kevin Willis, the vice president of biological programs at the Zoo of Minnesota.
Jared Goodman, the director of animal law at the PETA foundation, was very repulsed by the study and gave a statement of his own, mentioning that “SeaWorld’s claims simply don’t hold water”.
The PETA foundation also informed that a previous study published earlier this year, in April, in the journal Marine Mammal Science, concluded quite the opposite. This older study, conducted by PETA, found that the life expectancy that killer whales living in captivity have is a lot lower than the new study claims – 11.8 years.
As expected, Todd Robeck, Kevin Willis and the other two colleagues aren’t sold on PETA’s study either. They dispute the methodology that the foundation used for its study and firmly believe that their own findings are the correct ones
It’s also worth mentioning that SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment has been frequently attacked by PETA as well as other animal-welfare groups in the past couple of years. It all started in 2013, when director Gabriela Cowperthwaite released a documentary called “Blackfish”. The film accuses the park employees of neglecting and abusing the killer whales living at SeaWorld.
Not surprisingly, Cowperthwaite’s documentary not only earned SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment criticism from various parties, it also caused the park to lose visitors. The company answered the film by launching a new campaign aimed at disputing the accusations made by Blackfish.
What’s more, SeaWorld also announced that they have plans to build bigger orca tanks in San Diego, and changed the company’s old chief executive with a new one.
Time will tell if future studies will back up SeaWorld’s findings or PETA’s findings.
Image Source: travelandtourworld.com