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Sorry Activists, but Seaworld’s Killer Whale Habitats Are Not as “Small” as They Look

In another attempt to throw the internet onto another “guilt trip”, anti-zoo activists attempt to compare SeaWorld’s killer whale habitat to a lake.

By Jenna DeedyPublished 4 years ago 4 min read
Orlando's Shamu Stadium: Not as Small As Some Will Say. (Photo by Anonymous)

They say that the internet is full of crazy conspiracies that are just beyond indescribable, and sometimes, full of whimsical nonsense that does nothing more than to draw the emotional side of its audience that would be enough to be passed as “fact” without doing any research to validate the “claim”. Well, it does appear that animal rights extremists who target zoos and aquariums are now attempting to do the same thing on social media.

Recently on Facebook, various activists groups attempted to convince parents to not bring their kids to SeaWorld by comparing a recreational lake to SeaWorld’s killer whale habitat. The groups all claim that a lake that is used by people for recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, and boating, was “huge” comparing to a well designed killer whale habitat that was built by the SeaWorld parks for housing the Shamu family. Yet, this makes no scientific sense whatsoever at all.

The truth about Those Pools

For example, SeaWorld Orlando, which sees 16,000 visitors each day, houses five killer whales. Yet, activists keep comparing Orlando’s killer whale habitat to the large parking lot (I kid you not!) that would require more surface area than pools that are designed to house the mammals. Yet, this is only a reference to just the surface area, not volume. This would mean that it is just unrealistic to compare two-dimensional surface area parking lots to the three-dimensional pools that house killer whales. In fact, volume increases faster than surface area, which makes comparing the two to be scientifically inaccurate.

As for comparing killer whale habitats to lakes, it’s very important to take volume into consideration. For example, the killer whale habitat averages thirty-five feet deep, which provides 7,000,000 gallons of saltwater. A lake, on the other hand, may only average around no more than two-feet deep while providing only 5,000,000 gallons. The reason is because volume increases faster than the surface area and while a lake does have a large surface area, it would only be able to provide a smaller living area than SeaWorld’s killer whale pools.

So, if parking lots were to have the same average depth as lakes, they would only be able hold about the same amount as a killer whale habitat.

But Do Killer Whales Have Enough Space to Thrive?

Although killer whales do on average, swim 100 miles a day in the wild, they do not do it because of the physiological need to do so, but by force in order to seek out the various prey that they feed on, which would depend on what ecotype they are. For example, resident orcas feed on fish and squid, transient orcas feed on marine mammals and certain shorebird species, and offshore orcas feed on sharks, rays, and larger deepwater fish species.

If they are able to find food in small, shallow areas, they would remain in the same place year-round and would no longer have any need to do any deep dives for long periods of times. This has actually been proven with killer whale populations in the Gibraltar straight, where the use of satellite tags showed that the animals had plenty of food in small areas while traveling no more than ten miles per day.

If killer whales can find food by swimming 50 miles in a single day instead of 100, it is unknown if they half as “happy” since they have expended energy that is often used up at the end of the day. For killer whale mothers, much of that energy goes into ensuring the survival of their calves while their matriarch grandmothers may use that very same amount of energy to locating spots where the animals often hunted for generations and ensuring their pods’ survival.

As for Killer Whales in Human Care?

Spain’s Loro Parque, for example, has 22.5 million liters of water, which is equivalent to 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools which are much bigger than typical hotel swimming pools. The six killer whales who have called the Orca Ocean habitat home since 2006 have no need to swim hundreds of miles a day because they have no physiological need to do so.

This is because these animals have their very own routine that would ensure they are fed, enriched, and stimulated throughout the day through feeding sessions, playing sessions with both trainers and other whales, training sessions (which by the way, gives the animals exercise), which does include the shows that they often perform in, and the husbandry sessions that are aimed at keeping them healthy in a marine zoological setting.


So, if I were given a question regarding killer whales and “tank” life, I would say the following: It makes no scientific sense to compare killer whale habitats to lakes and parking lots since that would be scientifically inaccurate, and wild populations only travel “hundreds” of miles a day because they are forced to in order to search for prey and to ensure the survival of their pods.

However, if the mammals are able to find prey in small, shallow areas, they would remain there and not make deep dives for long periods of time.

wild animals

About the Creator

Jenna Deedy

Zoo and Aquarium Professional, Educator, Cosplayer, Writer and B.A. in Psychology whose got a lot to share when it comes to animals, zoos, aquariums, conservation, and more.

Instagram: @jennacostadeedy

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  • MLJsceay 426about a year ago

    Hello, I know it’s been 3 years and i’m just wondering, do you still have the same opinion now? I only ask as I am currently getting into the stories of sea world and other aquariums and parks that have orcas. I respectfully disagree with your opinion even though I admit, I didn’t read the entire article. What I got from it was that you believe that the tanks are a decent size for them to live in because they don’t need to swim 100 miles a day because they only do that to find food. To that i’d say that the aquarium is the equivalent of a jail cell, in fact pretty close to solitary confinement. In Jail, they feed you enough food to keep you alive, but you are confined to a room. You personally have the freedom of going where you want, whenever you want, and eating whatever you want. They do not, they are confined to that cell with other orcas which in some cases isn’t true. They are fed small fish, there is no variety as far as i’ve seen. They are very similar to humans and the repercussions of being contained to this small cell are very evident. Not to mention that only the tank used for shows are deep enough for the whales fins not to touch and scrape the pool floor. We are comparing the tank to the Ocean.

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