Photo by SeaWorld
Anti-captivity activists Dr. Ingrid Visser and disgraced former trainer John Hargrove recently went to SeaWorld San Diego and made some outrageous claims about the health of the killer whales at the park. And the media ate it right up.
PETA’s mouthpiece The Dodo and real, reputable media outlets breathlessly ran with the video produced by the pair of activists.
Their entire video is about the wrong whale. And the media reports are all predicated on a lie.
- They have confused a fully weaned killer whale with a nursing baby. The video shows Makani, an almost 3-year-old killer whale weighing 2,130 pounds, and his mom Kasatka. Makani is fully weaned and eats about 65 pounds of fish a day.
- The whale they identify is often seen pair swimming with Kasatka. Makani “bumping” Kasatka is a commonly observed bonding behavior, and there is no bruising present.
- The resting behavior in the video is a natural behavior seen in the wild. For example, the Southern Resident ecotypes have been seen resting as much as 10-21% of the time. (Heimlich-Boran 1988, Ford 1989, Morton 1990, Baird and Dill 1995, Ford and Ellis 1999, Saulitis et al. 2000)
The video is actually indicative of the many things killer whale biologists still learn from our animals, as field researchers have very few opportunities to witness their full lifecycle, from calf births and nursing to adulthood.
No one is more dedicated to the health and well-being of our killer whales than the expert veterinarians and animal care staff working with them every day. Watch what they have to say:
If you’re going to claim to be a killer whale expert, you might want to make sure you are talking about the right killer whale.
It’s also worth noting that these activists purposefully try to get you to lower your BS meter by telling you that they are ‘scientists’ and showing you video while making claims that you cannot independently prove. It’s a compelling way to manipulate the public and it’s sad to see journalists fall for it.
If you’d like a primer on how visual and auditory cues can be used to manipulate you, check out this amazing video from a college class that took the romantic film “The Notebook” and turned it into a slasher film using the same deceptive practices found in “Blackfish.”