So here is the first of my “Florida Adventures” blogs I will post a new blog every week of what else you can do whilst vacationing in sunny Florida/Orlando.

My first blog is somewhat of a controversial one and I understand will have a divided opinion. I wanted to do this blog as I do have quite a strong opinion on the subject. I post things in Facebook and I’m sure some people do get annoyed at this. So now I felt it was my time to voice MY reasons why I have such a strong opinion on this.

So here we go.

Okay so you book a Florida vacation, whenever I speak to someone and tell them where I’m going I usually get asked these 3 questions:

1) Are you going to Disney world?

2) Are you doing universal studios?

3) How about SeaWorld?

While I answer yes to the first two questions the third is a definite NO!!I am very anti Seaworld, and not just because of the documentary Blackfish. I admit that watching Blackfish (which if you haven’t seen I highly recommend) sparked my interest  and curiosity into the park, but the research I have done since has forever changed the way I view marine parks.

There are currently a total of 61 orcas held in captivity (28 wild-captured plus 33 captive-born) in at least 14 marine parks in 8 different countries.

So let’s go way back to 1997 and my first ever visit to Florida. My mum and dad had previously visited SeaWorld in California back in 1980, and I was so excited to finally be going to visit the real shamu after seeing all of their pictures.

Below are some pictures from mum and dads California vacation and S back in 1980. It’s sad to see how close to the ocean they are, yet they are stuck swimming around their tiny tanks.

When I first visited Seaworld I was blown away by the park, and couldn’t believe I was seeing an actual killer whale up close! I even got to feed the dolphins!! Literally the luckiest girl in the world. When it come to watching the Shamu show I was completely blown away! In fact I wanted to be a SeaWorld trainer after seeing them at work!!

Below I have inserted some of my Seaworld pictures from my trip back in 1997!!

Of course in hindsight I was a naive young girl, and the whale I was so excited to see whilst taking a million pictures, was in fact miserable and living an inhumane life in captivity. When I returned to Florida back in 2005 we didn’t do SeaWorld purely because we ran out of time! (There was definitely no planning done on that trip) but planning for our next trip we had decided that SeaWorld would be top of the list!

One day back in 2013 I saw an advert pop up on Facebook about Blackfish I watched the trailer and scheduled to watch it that evening with my mum. We both sat there and watched it with tears in eyes and in utter shock, like how could we be so stupid as to not think that keeping captive orcas and dolphins was not truly barbaric, how did we even find this acceptable. It was a huge eye opener for us both and at the end of the documentary we both agreed that we never wanted to go back to SeaWorld again.

So I started to do some research into when and how and even why orcas started to be captured and introduced into a life of captivity. I discovered that a killer whale named Wanda was the first to be captured in 1961 by Marineland off the Pacific in California. They captured a sick, disoriented mature female in Newport Harbour, California. Two days after the introduction into her tank, she smashed her rostrum head-on into the tanks’ wall and died.

The next captive killer whale was in 1964. This did not start out as a live capture, but eventually ended up as the first whale to be kept in captivity for a period of time. A sculptor by the name of Samuel Burich was commissioned in 1964 by the Vancouver Aquarium to go out and “kill” a killer whale and fashion a life-sized model of it for the aquariums’ new British Columbia hall. Burich harpooned a 15-foot long, 1-ton whale near East Point, Saturna Island in British Columbia. When the whale did not die immediately, even after being shot, the aquarium director, Murray Newman, decided to keep the killer whale alive and tow the whale back to Vancouver, British Columbia – a 20-mile journey. He used the harpoon line attached to the base of the whales dorsal fin as the tow line. The harpooned whale that was towed to Vancouver was named Moby Doll (although later they found out it was male). People were surprised by Moby Dolls docility. Moby Doll was kept in captivity for 87 days until he died from a skin disease caused by the harbours’ low salinity water.

This information shocked me! to see how far back capturing orcas actually went. SeaWorld took on their first orca back in the 1960’s. Shamu was the name of the first female Orca brought to SeaWorld San Diego in the 1960s from the Seattle Aquarium where she was previously housed with the young male named Namu. ‘”Shamu” (so-named as the “she” version of Namu) is now used as a stage name for adult Orcas in performances at SeaWorld parks.

Still I was keen to dig a little further to find out how seaworld come about their orcas. Here’s what I found….

Five orcas currently at SeaWorld were kidnapped from their ocean homes, as were others who have since died. For example, Tilikum, a 32-year-old orca, was captured at the age of 2, he wasn’t taken from his natural environment because he was injured—instead, he was torn away from his family against his will and confined to a small concrete tank for a hefty profit. In 1965, the first-ever orca show at SeaWorld was performed by a female orca named Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego. During Shamu’s capture, her mother was shot with a harpoon and killed by a guy named Ted Griffin. His partner, Don Goldsberry, later worked for SeaWorld and was assigned to bring orcas into the park. He continued kidnapping and slaughtering orcas, and at one point, he hired divers to slit open the stomachs of four orcas, fill them with rocks, put anchors around their tails, and sink them to the bottom of the ocean so that their deaths would not be discovered (this is spoken about on Blackfish).

One of the most infamous capture incidents saw over 80 whales from the Southern Resident population of orcas in Washington State rounded-up at Penn Cove in 1970. Seven were taken into captivity while as many as five whales died. Today this population is recognised as endangered. Only one captured whale, Lolita, is still alive, held at Miami Seaquarium.

Orcas in the wild have an average life expectancy of 30 to 50 years—their estimated maximum life span is 60 to 70 years for males and 80 to more than 100 for females. The median age of orcas in captivity is only 9.

In captivity, all male orcas have collapsed dorsal fins as adults, which is a sign of an unhealthy orca. SeaWorld claims that this condition is common and natural for all orcas. However, collapsed dorsal fins are caused by the unnatural environment of captivity and are rarely seen in the wild. Only 1 to 5 percent of male orcas in some populations (and none in others) have fully collapsed dorsal fins.

SeaWorld confines whales and dolphins—who often swim up to 100 miles a day in the wild—to tanks that, to them, are the size of a bathtub. The car park at Seaworld is BIGGER than the orca tanks!!

Swimming with captive dolphins

The next thing I’m keen to talk about is swimming with captive dolphins….. A massive bug bare of mine is seeing photos of people swimming with dolphins! Most people have good intentions when they go on excursions or visit parks that allow you to swim with dolphins. But if they knew the truth behind the deceptive dolphin smile, they’d be horrified to know what they were actually supporting.

While interacting with captive dolphins at a marine park (and I’m keen to point out this is ANY marine park) may seem like fun the harsh reality is kept hidden. Many people don’t realize that dolphins are living a stressful and often dramatically shortened life in captivity. Many have been captured and taken from their families in the wild and are now used for your entertainment. These intelligent, social and wide-ranging creatures are forced to live in artificial, confined conditions, away from their natural family groups. Many die very young during capture, transport or in their tanks or enclosures. Dolphins continue to be taken from the wild to supply the growing demand for swimming with dolphins and dolphin encounters.

Methods used to capture and transport dolphins can be shockingly cruel and many animals die during capture operations or in transit.

Very often, dolphins are captured from populations that are already under threat from other human activities. In captivity, dolphins cannot escape from human swimmers when they do not want to interact with them.

Interactions with swimmers can lead to heightened stress and anxiety, which is often managed through medication in captivity.

Dolphins are at risk of collisions with swimmers and other dolphins; and fingernails and jewelry can damage their delicate skin.

Swim with the dolphins” (SWTD) is a general term for a variety of dolphin-themed itineraries. Besides swimming with a dolphin (or two), you can be photographed with a dolphin, pulled through the water by a dolphin (the “dorsal tow”), smooched by a dolphin or pushed by the beak of a dolphin. You can even pay to be a dolphin “trainer,” complete with a whistle and training manual.

As a child I was desperate to swim with a dolphin! I’m so thankful now that I never got to do it. Last year I was luckily enough to head over to Fort Myers and went on a dolphin trip down the Estero Bay, my god I will never forget the site of seeing pods of dolphins playing in the bay, some with the baby’s. it was a breath taking site and I feel so lucky to have had the chance to see it.

There are MANY MANY Marine parks all over the world, it’s not just seaworld although because of blackfish they have come under the most scrutiny. But there are so many captive orcas and dolphins and other marine animals that belong in the wild living in such dire captivity for your entertainment.

SeaWorld presents itself as a family establishment full of fun “educational” activities. However, these activities harm animals physically and emotionally. SeaWorld has the financial means and ability to create coastal sanctuaries, where the orcas would have a more natural and less stressful life and where they could feel the tides and waves; see, sense, and communicate with their wild relatives and other ocean animals; and engage in other natural behaviors that they are now denied. However, the park instead chooses to stick with the same inhumane business model that it has used for 50 years, despite all the violent and deadly incidents and evidence of harm.

Please say NO to SeaWorld and its enslavement of animals by refusing to buy a ticket to this abusement park, and ask the marine park to release these animals to sanctuaries.

Please watch Blackfish before you go to Seaworld or even think of booking your seaworld tickets. I guarantee you will change your mind. There are interviews with ex employees on the documentary who are now anti seaworld. It’s really sad and hard to watch as I have no doubt that the trainers and employees are utterly devoted to all the animals in the park. Unfortunately it’s the bosses higher up and it all comes down to one thing only $$$$$$$$$$. 

I know I can’t change the world or the way people view it and I can’t save every animal in the world, but if I can change just one persons mind about visiting Seaworld or ANY marine park after reading this blog then it’s a start, a small one but still a start.

This is my own opinion based on the reserch i have done, if you don’t agree or would like to share your views then please comment or contact me.

So this my first non Disney related non tough mudder blog. Thank you so much for reading. Of course I’ll be back next week with another blog all about Florida!

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Little miss keeping it real?