Killer Whales are Members of the Dolphin Family

by: Davis Yancy Clegg

Orca - Killer Whale in the ocean


Making a trip to one of the Sea World locations used to be the stuff daydreams were made of for children as well as adults. While the killer whale was not unheard of, its popularity went up exponentially for those who watched the film “Free Willy”. And chances were that if you had watched it once, you were sure to view it another time or two. Who doesn’t love a good movie ending in a victorious, daring animal rescue to wrap up the story’s plot line.

The film increased the general public’s awareness of the intelligence level of killer whales, making Sea World’s bottom line an extremely attractive one. As the shows went on, Sea World was thriving, throwing caution to wind by increasing the level of risk and upping the “wow factor.” Nina Easton put it candidly, “Shamu the killer whale is Sea World’s Mickey Mouse; whales named Shamu are the star attractions of three parks and the focus of their marketing efforts.”

While the show was magnificent in it’s prime, there were many skeptical marine biologists who wondered why this particular species was being held captive for purposes of entertainment. If should have been enough of a deterrent to continue the show that the lifespan of the killer whales in captivity was being decreased by more than half of their lifespan in their natural habitat. As far as park goers were concerned, it was impressive enough that a killer whale could be trained just as the dolphins were in the same environment. The explanation as to why killer whales were chosen is a scientifically simple one. The killer whale is – in fact – a member of the dolphin family. Simple deduction can tell us that they would be the only viable whale candidate for such training.

Dawn Brancheau

Dawn Brancheau was a senior animal trainer at SeaWorld

However, one characteristic was of the killer whale was ignored and cost one trainer, Dawn Brancheau, her life. As lions are to their jungles, Killer Whales are the Apex Predators of the ocean. To be the Apex Predator of your domain, is to be the big dog on the porch, if you will. No one is hunting you. Therefore, the Apex predator of any given territory is not threatened by another species which ventures into its territory. Just as we continue to funnel so many resources into actions taken on our planet that do more harm than good, we have continued in the wrong direction serving up these same types of injustices to the living inhabitants of the earth. Until we can learn to first understand the repercussions of our actions, we will continue to make the same mistakes, each time affecting another underappreciated piece of planet, until the only thing not endangered -is endangerment itself. If we take the time to think before we take actions that will have inevitable negative outcomes, it is only then that we will begin to use the resources given to us to affect positive change, and reverse the harm already done.


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Get to know our local dolphin population. These are not captured and love showing off. (learn more…)




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