I want Shamu at SeaWorld.
Not because I love watching him swim in seven million gallons of his own tears, not because I love sitting in the splash zone of his potty water and no, not even because I love defying the animal activist protestors that tape “SEAWORLD SUCKS” on a green highway exit sign.
No. I want Shamu at SeaWorld because he is the childhood spirit animal of millions of youth. He is the mascot of SeaWorld. But more importantly, Shamu founded, whether he wanted to or not, thousands of conservation efforts and gave humans a much better insight into the minds and lives of killer whales.
But wait, Blackfish told me that SeaWorld is mean to the whales. They steal the babies from the mommies and force them to do tricks and cram them in a giant tank that is way too small.
And now the sad little whales—like Tillikum—are sick and dying because SeaWorld is a horrible deathtrap to any whale they can grasp in their chubby, greedy fingers.
But when it comes down to it, Blackfish is propaganda. It is a one-sided documentary wannabe that disguises itself as an unbiased film of groundbreaking truth.
Yes, SeaWorld could have done a few things differently. They caused extremely emotion-centered and social animal’s immense pain by separating them from their young or heading their breeding program by replicating an aggressive orca’s sperm/DNA. However that shouldn’t cover up the fact that they have given millions of dollars to countless organizations and foundations that help marine animals across the globe.
According to a CNN article by Michael Scarpuzzi, who also happens to have been working at SeaWorld since 1975, Blackfish “ignores the extraordinary benefits to conservation, scientific research and education of America’s zoo and aquariums.”
In fact, for the next three years, SeaWorld has pledged $1.5 million to The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation which is through the Killer Whale Research and Conservation Program.
They’ve also aided in over 300 peer-reviewed studies about marine wildlife, including killer whale studies, donated $11 million to their conservation fund since they were founded, and worked to better understand the birth and development of young whales.
Yet, in addition to ignoring those important facts, Blackfish also skews many others.
For instance, the film claims that orcas in captivity live much shorter lives than their free-roaming counterparts, but this is not so.
In a peer-reviewed study posted in the Journal of Mammology, authors Todd R. Robeck, Kevin Willis, Michael R. Scarpuzzi and Justine K. O’Brien found that there’s less than a one year difference between the average lifespan of whales born and raised at SeaWorld versus whales living in the wild.
Although it brings some important issues to light, it’s also a horrific source of information based off people who, according to SeaWorld’s website, were merely posing as scientists or hadn’t worked in the park for over 20 years.
If you think about taking Shamu away from SeaWorld, you’re really taking the keystone away from the arch, separating the peanut butter from the jelly and snatching the book out of the nerd’s hands.
SeaWorld has modeled their entire ideology, their image and their park after this animal. Without Shamu, SeaWorld is just another marine zoo. Having Shamu at SeaWorld allows the average joe to come and stand face-to-face with the humongous, majestic beast that is the killer whale. Through that once-in-a-lifetime experience, people become aware of what kinds of life inhabit the ocean and allow communities to be ocean-minded.
“I really like whales,” SeaWorld enthusiast and California Lutheran University sophomore Brittany DeValk said.“Seeing them up so close makes me want to keep our oceans clean because of all the marine creatures that live there.”
Keeping Shamu at SeaWorld is bigger than the fight between animal captivity and human entertainment.
SeaWorld San Diego is, in fact, expanding their tank for the killer whales and creating a more natural-habitat viewing of these amazing creatures.
But in the years that Shamu has been at SeaWorld, he has become the mascot and pioneer for marine mammal research and brought awareness to the necessary marine mammal conservation that needs to take place.
Without Shamu scientists, we would still know very little about the amazing creatures of the ocean, and with Shamu gone, the pathway into that research—which Shamu paved—will forever be hindered.
Published April 20th, 2016