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Lockdown never ends– why TUI needs to stop supporting whale and dolphin captivity and how you can help

As Covid restrictions lift and we can move more freely, travel is just a distant memory for many captive whales and dolphins. But the world’s biggest tour operator still supports this cruel industry.  Join our major new campaign calling on TUI to stop supporting tourism that exploits whales and dolphins.

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Sign our petition. Call on TUI to help end lockdown for whales and dolphins.

I’ve been lucky enough to see whales and dolphins in the wild. One of my most memorable encounters was standing on the observation deck at OrcaLab in British Columbia, Canada tingling with awe and exhilaration as adoption orca Fife passed with his family, their tall fins cutting silently through the water, their blows loud, travelling together with a common purpose. We’d heard them coming long before we saw them, the underwater microphones picking up their chatter as they communicated with one another in a dialect unique to their family making them instantly recognisable to the staff and volunteers at OrcaLab. I’ll never forget it.

But not all of Fife’s family were with him that day. His oldest sister, Corky, was stolen from them and from her vast Pacific Northwest home on 11th December 1969.  She was sold into captivity and she’s been confined to a tank ever since, making her the longest serving orca prisoner in the world. She’s held at SeaWorld San Diego, unable to travel further than the side of the pool while TUI sells tickets to human travellers to go and look at her.

Corky at Sea World
Corky has been held captive for more than 50 years. © Rob Lott

For whales and dolphins like Corky, lockdown never ends.

There are around 3,600 whales, dolphins and porpoises in captivity worldwide. This includes more than 3,000 dolphins and around 366 belugas and 57 orcas. Many of them have been taken from families in the wild while others were born in captivity and have never even seen the ocean.

Some of the real whales and dolphins held at 'attractions' supported by TUI:

Orca Lolita

Meet Lolita, also known as Tokitae (orca)

Age: 54

Years in captivity: 51

Location: Miami Seaquarium, USA

Lolita is six metres long, existing in a tank that is six metres deep at its deepest point and just 24 metres long at its longest. She's been there for 51 years. The tank is so small, it’s illegal by US government regulations, yet it’s been her entire world for more than half a century. In the wild, she’d cover 100 miles or more a day playing, socialising, looking for food and resting. Lolita's family are members of the critically endangered Southern Residents, and her presumed mother is still alive and free off the west coast of the US and Canada. We think she’s 93 years old and she’s probably covered around 3.5 million miles in her lifetime.

Orca Lolita
Morgan at Loro Parque

Meet Morgan (orca)

Age: 13

Years in captivity: 11

Location: Loro Parque, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Morgan was found alone and emaciated in 2010 and was rescued. The plan was to nurse her back to health and release her. But she was taken to Loro Parque in 2011 and she has been there ever since. A 2012 report by the Free Morgan Foundation revealed she had been attacked by other orcas, bore wounds from self-mutilation and had ground her teeth down by chewing on concrete bars in frustration. She was made pregnant and tragically her baby, Ula, died suddenly a few weeks before her third birthday in August 2021. How many more deaths will it take before people accept that captivity is wrong and isn’t working?

Morgan at Loro Parque
Beluga whale Nanuq

Meet Nanuq (beluga)

Age: 32 when he died

Years in captivity: 25

Location: SeaWorld Orlando, USA

In 1990, when Nanuq was just six years old, he was torn away from his home waters in Manitoba, Canada. He never saw his family again. He survived 25 years in captivity, sentenced to a stress-filled, lonely existence in concrete pools. Nanuq was used in an intensive artificial insemination experiment at SeaWorld. He was transferred between five different SeaWorld facilities and removed from the water around 42 times for sperm samples. He fathered 13 babies but six died at birth or as newborns. SeaWorld has held belugas since 1975 yet only nine babies have ever survived.

Beluga whale Nanuq
Dolphin Makaido © Kya López

Meet Makaiko (bottlenose dolphin)

Age: Unknown

Years in captivity: 10

Location: Died at Dolphin Discovery, Mexico

Makaiko was captured in the brutal Taiji dolphin hunt in Japan then taken to Mexico where he was forced to entertain tourists. After his tank mates died he was alone. He had to spend his days dragging people along as they held his fins, pushing them with his nose and jumping over them – person after person, hour after after hour. One day Makaiko got tangled up in nets that had been put down after a storm. Nobody noticed and when, no matter how hard he struggled, he couldn’t get to the surface to breathe, he suffocated to death in the venue where he was exploited to entertain holidaymakers.

Dolphin Makaido © Kya López
Corky at SeaWorld

Meet Corky (orca)

Age: 55

Years in captivity: 52

Location: SeaWorld, San Diego, USA

Corky has been in captivity longer than any other whale or dolphin. She was taken from her family when she was only three years old. She’s been pregnant seven times and given birth four times but only two of her babies survived. The other two starved to death because the shape of the pool was not suitable for her to nurse them properly. Corky is from the Northern Resident population of orcas and she has a large family, including a brother and sister, living wild and free in the waters of British Columbia, Canada.

Corky at SeaWorld
Dolphins in captivity

Meet Tabo (bottlenose dolphin)

Age: 28

Years in captivity: 28

Location: Zoomarine, Algarve, Portugal

Tabo is the dolphin fourth from right in the photo. He is held with 27 other dolphins – more than at any other facility in the EU. As well as having to perform in shows, Tabo is part of the ‘Dolphin Emotions’ experience where adults and children as young as six years old are encouraged to kiss and cuddle him. Imagine being groped and fondled by stranger after stranger, day after day, unable to say ‘no’ or find somewhere to hide.

Dolphins in captivity
Orca Keto at Loro Parque

Meet Keto (orca)

Age: 26

Years in captivity: 26

Location: Loro Parque, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Keto has been held by five different parks during his life. In 2009, he killed his trainer Alexis Martinez in a terrible incident that his family believes was initially covered up. To our knowledge, no wild orca has ever killed a human. The film Blackfish exposes what goes on behind the scenes at these theme parks and how confinement can have such a devastating effect on an orca’s mental health that they can be driven to kill a human. His dorsal fin is collapsed - another phenomenon rarely seen in the wild.

Orca Keto at Loro Parque
Helen - Pacific white-sided dolphin

Meet Helen (Pacific white-sided dolphin)

Age: Unknown

Years in captivity: 10

Location: SeaWorld, San Antonio, USA

Helen was born wild and free in the waters off Japan. She’s now held by SeaWorld in Texas, having been moved there from Vancouver Aquarium when Canada outlawed whale and dolphin captivity. She was the only one left after her last tank mate, a false killer whale named Chester, died of what’s thought to have been a bacterial disease. We don't think TUI sells tickets to SeaWorld in Texas but they do support other SeaWorld parks.

Helen - Pacific white-sided dolphin
Orca Skyla at Loro Parque

Meet Skyla (orca)

Age: 17 when she died

Years in captivity: 17 - her whole life

Location: Died in 2021 at Loro Parque, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Skyla’s story is a tragically short one. She was born at SeaWorld, Orlando in 2004 and separated from her mother, Kalina and taken to Loro Parque on Tenerife when she was only two years old. Her father was Tilikum, the orca at the heart of the the film Blackfish, so she was part Icelandic and part Southern Resident. She was taken to Loro Parque with three other young SeaWorld orcas: Keto, Tekoa and Kohana. They had no older female to look up to and learn from. She was used in shows until she died suddenly at just 17.

Orca Skyla at Loro Parque

Captivity is cruel, with severe health consequences

Whales and dolphins are still captured from the wild, kept in tanks that are far too small for their needs and made to perform for our entertainment. But they are inherently social creatures and like us, their mental health suffers when they are denied social contact with other individuals, not to mention the trauma that must be felt by the family they’ve left behind. In the wild, Corky would travel around 100 kilometres a day and dive to depths of 500 metres to find her food. In fact wild orcas can travel up to 225 kilometres a day for 30 or 40 days without rest. At SeaWorld she is held together with nine other orcas and the biggest tank available to them is 106 metres long and 15 metres deep.

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The power is in our hands.

Before launching our new campaign, we surveyed the UK public (a nationally representative sample of 2,000 people) and found that 62% of people think it’s unacceptable to keep whales and dolphins in tanks and less than a third think that watching captive whales and dolphins is good entertainment. The tide is changing and by continuing to support cruel, exploitative tourism, the world’s biggest tour operator, TUI, is on the wrong side of history.

We have the choice to say no to trips to these facilities when they are offered by TUI and others as part of a holiday package.

Holiday companies like TUI perpetuate the cruelty of captivity.

Over a quarter (28%) of people in the UK who have visited a facility that displays captive whales and dolphins in the past 10 years said they had done so because it was recommended to them by a holiday company or travel rep, or on a cruise.

With your support, we have campaigned successfully to persuade travel giants such as Virgin Holidays, British Airways and TripAdvisor to cut their ties with whale and dolphin captivity. But TUI continues to help keep the cruel industry alive.

Join us in putting pressure on TUI to show leadership and pledge to only work with attractions that commit to our phase-out model of no performances, no breeding, no captures, no trade, and support for sanctuaries.

Lockdown never ends for whales and dolphins in captivity. It’s time to end this cruel practice. Let’s make this generation of captive whales and dolphins the last.

What can you do?

  1. Sign our petition
  2. Share our campaign using the hashtag #LockdownNeverEnds
  3. Talk to people – if you are offered a trip to a captive facility while on holiday, talk to the rep and your fellow travellers
  4. Make a donation to help fund our campaign

 

Please help us today with a donation

Your gift, whether large or small, will help us end lockdown for whales and dolphins.

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About Julia Pix

Communications manager - Public Engagement

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