STW Logo Banner
Founded 1977

Save The Whales' purpose is to educate children

and adults about marine mammals, their

environment and their preservation. 
The Tragedy of Captivity
It Needs to End

With the release of the film, Blackfish, the public has an opportunity like never before to see what captivity and circus-type shows means to the trapped - and many times kidnapped - orcas.
The director Gabriela Cowperthwaite started work on the documentary after the death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer at SeaWorld, Orlando, FL. Ms Brancheau was killed by the orca Tilikum during a performance. Different scenarios have been advanced as to how and why this happened. The bottom line is Ms. Brancheau is dead and Tilikum, taken from his mother in Iceland at the age of 2, has had his already curtailed and solitary life abbreviated even more.

Orcas, or killer whales, are the largest member of the dolphin family.  In the wild, they live in complex and cohesive family groups called pods. The pods are matriarchally-structured and few animals stray from their natal matriline or mother line. Resident orcas have a unique system of vocal dialects. Each clan has an explicit dialect, and each pod uses distinct calls. These calls are believed to transfer information and help toward group unity. When orcas are living in aquaria, it is unlikely that they are with an orca from their family group, and so they do not understand each other's language.

In their natural habitat, they may travel 100 miles in a day, all the while swimming and breaching, feeding, tending to their young, socializing with pod members or with another pod they encounter in their travels. In aquaria, a drooped-over dorsal is attributed to their lack of exercise. No aquaria could ever come close to matching their lives in their natural
environment, or as Dr. Paul Spong, founder of Orca Lab, said:   


"What orcas are displaying in these tanks is a caricature
of the real orca - almost a shadow - when you consider
what the orca is like in the ocean."


Save The Whales has joined with other organizations from around the world and consolidated into WORLD CETACEAN ALLIANCE (WCA) to end the suffering of large and intelligent animals for the public's entertainment. A major goal of WCA is to end captivity.

The most famous imprisoned orcas are Corky, Lolita and Tilikum. Their stories of capture at an early age and their decades of captivity follow. Keiko, the star of the "Free Willy" movies, was an attempt to put an orca back into the wild and it failed for numerous reasons. His story is on Save The Whales website.  Because the effort to successfully return Keiko to the wild did not happen, it does not mean that further attempts should not be made. Dolphins have been returned to the wild or escaped from their captors and lived successfully in their natural habitat, the ocean.  

Spyhop - Maris Sidenstecker I
Photograph by Maris Sidenstecker I
An Orca Living Free with its Family in the Puget Sound Area


Corky, Captive at Sea World -
San Diego, CA 

Corky, a female orca, has lived in captivity longer than any orca, slightly longer than Lolita. Captured in 1969 at age three from the Northern Resident Pod in Pender Harbor, Vancouver Island, she has been in captivity for 44 years. She was taken from her mother and family of the A-5 Pod. Of the other animals captured on that day, she alone survives, some animals were killed during the capture process.

Originally housed at Marineland near Los Angeles, Corky and her mate Orky (a cousin) were transferred to Sea World, San Diego, where Orky only lived for 18 months. During her life, Corky has given birth to 7 calves. The longest one lived was 47 days. At SeaWorld she has been ridden, walked on, climbed over and attacked.

In a freak accident, Corky was attacked by a female orca named Kandu V. While attempting to demonstrate dominance over Corky by raking her with her teeth, she charged at Corky but instead hit a wall and fractured her jaw. A bone fragment severed an artery and after a 45-minute hemorrhage, she died. During this drama, her 11-month old calf Orkid swam alongside her. Orphaned Orkid was placed with Corky.
Corky's pod
still travels the Inside Passage off Vancouver Island but none of the orcas have been seen near Pender Harbor. While Corky and the other orcas captured by fishermen were in a holding net, family members including Corky's mother, didn't leave but stayed close to their relatives until they were taken away, They would never see one another again.

Dr. Paul Spong has been studying orca pods for more than 40 years from his home on Hanson Island, British Columbia. He lived near and studied the A-pod while making plans for Corky to be returned to her mother and family. Unfortunately, her mother A-23, died in 2000. Paul now wishes that after so many years in captivity, Corky be allowed to "retire" to a facility where she would feel the ocean around her and have opportunities to interact with her community and family members when they are nearby.

Two sites have been found for a retirement "home" and both are protected from winter storms, both have deep water, and both have adjacent land that can be used to house support infrastructure and crew accommodations.

Dr. Spong states, "Both Corky and Lolita could live for many more years in captivity, but should they live out their lives, however long, surrounded by concrete walls? In fairness, the answer has to be a resounding NO!


Lolita -
Imprisoned at Miami Seaquarium, Miami, FL
Lolita was a four-year-old when she was brutally captured from her family in Puget Sound in 1970 and is now age 47. Captured from the Southern Resident L-Pod, she was taken to the Miami Seaquarium where she has lived ever since. Several groups have been attempting for years to remove Lolita from her small tank that violates Department of Agriculture size regulations. She needs and deserves to have a more natural and humane life. The Orca Network has a Plan to retire Lolita to a transitional ocean sanctuary before returning to her native home in the Pacific Northwest. At one time, her tank at Seaquarium was to be enlarged, but instead a new facility was added called Dolphin Harbor to capture the "swim with dolphins" craze.

Once she was rehabilitated according to the Plan, an effort would be made to reintroduce Lolita to her family pod. Her family and where they travel is well known to researchers. Experts have confirmed that Lolita's natural mother (L25), "Ocean Sun," is still alive in the Puget Sound area. This makes the Lolita plan workable, as she could return home to her family.

A moving Public Service Announcement makes a plea for Lolita to return to her family.  


Tilikum -

SeaWorld, Orlando, FL

Tilikum was captured on November 9, 1983 off the east coast of Iceland when he was about three years old, and he is the largest orca in captivity. He was first sent to live at Sealand of the Pacific in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He lived there with two older females named Haida II and Nootka IV where he was at the bottom of the social structure, and Haida and Nootka would often chase him into the medical pool. Sealand of the Pacific utilized food motivation as part of their animal training, meaning the whales were fed when they responded in a desired fashion to commands and food was withheld when they didn't.

First death

On February 21, 1991, a trainer named Keltie Byrne slipped into the tank of the three whales at.Sealand of the Pacific. They had never had a trainer in the pool with them before. Haida and Nootka began tossing Ms. Byrne to each other's mouths. Although Tilikum was not an instigator, he joined in, and Ms. Bryne was drowned. Both female orcas were pregnant which was unknown to the trainers at the time. Tilikum was moved to SeaWorld Orlando, Florida on January 9, 1992, and Sealand of the Pacific was closed shortly thereafter.

Second death

On July 6,1999, a 27-year-old man named Daniel P. Dukes was found dead and draped over Tilikum's back. He had visited SeaWorld, stayed after the park closed, evaded security and entered the tank (whether on his own, he fell or was grabbed is unknown). An autopsy of his body found multiple wounds, contusions, and abrasions, and concluded he died from hypothermia and drowning.

Third death

On February 24, 2010, Tilikum was involved in a third incident when he killed Dawn Brancheau, a 40-year-old trainer. Ms Brancheau was drowned during a "Dine with Shamu" show. Although SeaWorld has claimed that she was pulled into the water by her ponytail, there are different scenarios that state she was grabbed by her arm or by her waist. SeaWorld trainers now wear their hair in buns or cut short in a cynical attempt to show that what happened to Ms Brancheau couldn't happen to another trainer.


The Chinook word "Tilikum" means friends, relations, tribe, nation, common people.

Captivity is profit driven. All of these magnificent animals deserve better lives and it's up to us to make it happen. If you read our newsletters, it's likely that you do not want to see orcas imprisoned. Urge people who don't know, or have not thought about the dark side of captivity, to see the movie Blackfish. If they will take that step, they will probably understand how much the animals are losing while business is making profit from their suffering.

Thank you for signing up for our Eletters and helping us help marine mammals. We do not share our email lists with other organizations.



M1 signature    

Maris Sidenstecker I 

Executive Director, Save The Whales 

501(c)(3) nonprofit organization  

Save The Whales Great NonProfits

 Voted Top-Rated NonProfit  


Click on the above title to find where Blackfish is playing around the world and information about DVD releases.
In the United States, the movie will play on CNN.
October 24, 2013 
    9pm E.T.

Help Free Morgan
 New Hearing Date Set

A lone female orca calf was taken from the Wadden Sea off the northwest coast of the Netherlands. This capture in June 2010 was under a rehabilitation and release permit. Morgan was taken to the Dolfinarium Harderwijk for medical care as she was emaciated and dehydrated. The Dolfinarium was not allowed to display her publicly, and she was to be prepared for entry back into her natural habitat. This did not happen.

Morgan still is at Loro Parque, a privately owned entertainment park in the Canary Islands. She performs in shows and is abused by the other orca at the park.

Yet, there is compelling evidence that Morgan is a suitable orca for release back into her home waters. A member of Morgan's extended family was located in June 2012, and there is a viable plan to return her to where she was born and belongs.


November 2012 Hearing


In November 2012, a court hearing was held in the Amsterdam District Courts. Despite the testimony of three experts and pleas from members of the public from around the world, it was ruled that Morgan should remain at Loro Parque.   

During the hearing, the experts provided issues regarding Morgan's living conditions at Loro Parque. When orca expert Dr. Ingrid Visser visited Morgan after the decision, she saw that her life has not improved. She observed her chewing on concrete and repeatedly bashing her head against the side of a gate closing mechanism. Boredom and stress have accelerated tooth wear with a third of her teeth now permanently damaged and the tops worn off. Dr. Visser also noted damaged tissue on her lower jaw and observed an open wound on the tip of it.


NEW Morgan Court Date  


On December 3, 2013 at 10:45am, an appeal will be heard for Morgan at Kneuterdijk 22, Den Haag, Netherlands, Chamber Unit A3. Five minutes will be allowed for Morgan's lawyer to present her case and five minutes for the Ministry to present their case. It will be followed by questions the High Court Judges may have.The public will not have a chance to comment or make submissions prior to the hearing, but the public may attend. After the Appeal hearing, the Court has up to eight weeks to announce their verdict.


To Help Morgan ...






Orca Kills Trainer in  
Canary Islands

On December 24, 2009, two months before Dawn Brancheau was killed, trainer Alexis Martínez was killed at Loro Parque marine park in the Canary Islands. His death was caused by a 10-year old orca named Keto, who was one of four orcas imported from SeaWorld, San Antonio, Texas. Death was caused by drowning but his body had been badly damaged. Keto was born at SeaWorld, Orlando, and was headed to his fourth marine park in seven years.

These highly social animals are moved to different parks and are required to adapt to a new life and unfamiliar animals. Two years before Keto killed Martínez, Loro Parque almost lost a female trainer, 29-year- old Claudia Vollhardt, to an attack by Tekoa. Of the four orcas imported for Loro Parque's Orca Ocean, only one has not been involved in an "event."

There is more compelling reading on these incidents.

peace  whale
Graphic by Jake Burke 2009

Save The Whales Contributions 
We Need Your Support 

To give online click on this link.  
Checks are welcome.
1192 Waring St. 
Seaside CA 93955 
Save The Whales is a 501(c)(3) organization and contributions are tax-deductible.

Costs to visit a SeaWorld marine park are:

Ages 10 and up     $73.00
Ages 3-9                $65.00
Ages 0-2                   -0-

Save The Whales works to save dolphins from these parks.

This email was sent to by |  
Save The Whales | 1192 Waring Street | Seaside | CA | 93955