Dolphinarium Harderwijk Reputation Rebuilding Falls Short
In a futile attempt at damage control, the Dolphinarium Harderwijk has published an article in Zooquaria Magazine, a quarterly publication of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) following the November transfer of rescued orca Morgan to Loro Parque in Tenerife.
The 1-page article is published in the appropriate section: MEDIA AND PR, because it’s nothing more than that. And it definitely doesn’t contain anything “scientifically sound and realistic”:
From the Zooquaria article:
“The skin marks caused by teeth on one of the animals in Loro Parque was used as proof that this group of killer whales was highly aggressive amongst one another. The skin marks however were very superficial and far more serious marks are widely found among killer whales in the wild.” says Niels van Elk, veterinarian and marine biologist, Dolfinarium Harderwijk.
Mr. van Elk, have you seen Morgan’s recent wounds after being repeatedly rammed and bitten by the other animals held there? Click HERE to see for yourself.
“The coalition claimed killer whales in zoos have a far shorter life expectancy than their counterparts in the wild. Long term analysis of the marine mammal inventory of the USA indicates the reverse is true.” ~ Niels van Elk
Where’s your data to support this?
Unlike the marine park industry’s typical baseless claims, in the past 18 months there HAVE been two studies conducted on captive orca longevity which show the appalling rate by which orcas die at young ages in marine parks:
One study was completed by former SeaWorld trainers John Jett, PhD and Jeffrey Ventre, MD in “Keto and Tilikum Express the Stress of Orca Captivity“. Another study was conducted by Senior Scientist Naomi Rose, PhD for the Humane Society International in “Killer Controversy: Why orcas should no longer be kept in captivity“
Where is Dr. van Elk’s study to back up his claims? Where is the Harderwijk study… or any marine park’s study? He is also misguided in his assertion that “animal rights activists” count all deaths at zoos starting at birth but wild animals are only counted after 6 months of age—
In the Jett/Ventre study, the Mean Duration of Captivity (MDC) was indeed calculated inclusive of the relatively few live births that did not survive beyond 6 months, however, this only factored into the post-Kalina cohort when “successful” captive breeding began in 1985. The MDC, including early-death calves, was calculated at 2,413 days or 6.6 years. Extracting the captive born orca calves that did not survive >6 months, the resulting change is not statistically significant; the MDC only rises to approx 2,690 days or 7.4 years. By applying the Kaplan-Meir method, the results place the median duration of captivity between 2.7 and 8.9 years— well below that of wild orca longevity.
Naomi’s calculations of the Annual Survival Rate (ASR) looked at the data in a number of ways; including and excluding calves and non-calves, wild caught and captive born, by birth, rescue, stranding, released and escaped, as well as with and without “unsuccessful” births including stillborn calves. As Dr. Rose cited in her white paper, captive orca survivorship has grown worse since the 1995 Small and DeMaster study (which, like the Jett/Ventre and Rose studies also erred on the side of caution and utilized data biased toward marine parks).
In the wild male orcas live an average of 30+ years and females 50+ years. Many also live well into their 80s or 90s. In captivity orcas rarely make it out of their teens and suffer from the extreme stresses of the captive environment.
No matter how you slice or dice the data it is evident that orcas in the wild fare MUCH better than their captive counterparts.
Mr. van Elk— show us your data to back up your claims. Our guess is it doesn’t exist.