Reports have confirmed that Nakai, an 11-year-old male orca, has suffered a severe injury his to chin on September 20th, while performing during a night show. Although he reportedly is responding to antibiotics, his condition is uncertain as he recovers from this serious wound. How this injury occurred is a matter of speculation: whether Nakai accidentally or forcibly ran into a pool wall or metal safety barrier, or was involved in an aggressive encounter with another whale, is uncertain. SeaWorld released a statement indicating that Nakai had “come into contact with a portion of the pool.” However, the severity of the wound leaves room for questioning whether SeaWorld’s account of the incident is accurate.
Other orcas have been injured recently at SeaWorld, including Ike who suffered from a large gash to his chin area in July, and at the same park in San Diego. As the orca injuries continue, SeaWorld also continues its contesting of the citation issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that was upheld in May of this year. SeaWorld subsequently sought an official appeal to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission which was denied thereby upholding the original verdict in the case. SeaWorld’s last option in contesting the verdict is the US Federal Court of Appeals where it has filed an official appeal in its continuing effort to oppose OSHA’s citation and required safety mitigation measures protecting trainers from close contact with orcas at SeaWorld parks.
This recent injury is a gruesome reminder of the inherent risks associated with captivity. As the list of reasons against the keeping of orcas in captivity grows, and as support for the continuing confinement of orcas appears to be waning,WDCS continues its call for an end to this practice.
The physical, social and mental needs of orcas cannot be met in captivity and the public display industry is a threat to populations in the wild that are targeted by live capture operations used to supply public display programs worldwide.