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Orca Keet Faces Stressful Relocation

(c) WDCS/Bernard Auton

WDCS has recently become aware of the impending transfer of the orca Keet from Sea World Texas to Sea World California.  This transfer is slated to occur upon the completion of the construction that has been ongoing at Sea World San Diego to address issues with some of the orca pools there. 

It is not uncommon for orcas to be transported between Sea World facilities, or even abroad to international facilities, such as the four Sea World orcas that were shipped to Loro Parque in 2006.  The constant movement and relocation between facilities is extremely stressful for orcas, and WDCS is concerned that the impending transfer will also place Keet, a 20 year-old captive born male orca, in a highly stressful situation as he is forced to integrate within a new orca hierarchy at Sea World San Diego. 

The potential for harassment and injury as Keet navigates a new social hierarchy has been evidenced recently by the transfer of both Morgan from Harderwijk Dolphinarium in the Netherlands to Loro Parque, and Ikaika(Ike) from Marineland, Canada back to Sea World San Diego. Both have suffered from aggressive interaction with the other orcas in these facilities. Keet’s move has been prompted primarily due to a lack of space (Sea World Texas is the smallest of the Sea World facilities in the US), as well aggression toward  him by the other whales there.

Keet has a long and unfortunate history with transfers between SeaWorld facilities, starting with his initial separation from his mother, Kalina, when he was just 20 months old.  He was left to fend for himself in 1994 when his mother was moved from SeaWorld Texas to SeaWorld Florida.  According to a recent article by journalist Tim Zimmerman once separated from his mother,  Keet reportedly endured years of abuse by his tank mates before being moved to SeaWorld California in November 1999 where he was placed with his brother, Keto and another male, Sumar.  Sumar is now dead, dying at the age of 12 in September 2010 at SeaWorld California, and Keto is in Loro Parque in the Canary Islands and was the orca involved with the death of trainer Alexis Martinez on December 24, 2009. Keet was moved back to Sea World Texas in 2004, and by all accounts, continues to be a subdominant captive orca who struggles in the social hierarchy within the various SeaWorld parks. But he continues to be a subdominant whale who struggles in the social order, and shares the similar position to Tekoa in Loro Parque who is frequently harassed by the other whales there.