Killer whale ‘fed rotting fish and forced to perform with injury in tiny tank’
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Each day audiences flock to aquariums to see animals performing tricks under the belief they are happy and healthy and have been given the OK to perform by medics – but a new report looking into one Florida attraction says otherwise.
Seaquarium is one of Miami's oldest attractions and has over the years caused concern from campaigners, but until now their cries for change have fallen on death ears.
Even if you haven't attended the aquarium, you may have seen it from the popular TV series Flipper TV which was filmed there in the 1960s.
Miami Seaquarium's website states they are South Florida’s "best aquarium and favourite visitor attraction."
But a damming report has revealed what the venue is like behind closed doors, with the terrible conditions that park visitors may have missed – which have led to severe injuries and fatalities, according to publication NPR.
For decades, protesters have centred their campaign around Seaquarium's star attraction, that is killer whale Lolita who is one of the oldest killer whales in captivity.
Over the years, campaigners have stressed that Lolita, who has been held captive for 51 years, is far too big for the miniature tank that she lives in – which is only 20 feet deep and just 35 feet wide, reports NPR.
US Marine Scientist Naomi Rose slammed the attraction and said: "She's 20 feet long. And she's lived there for 50 years. It's ridiculous."
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The whale reportedly isn't doing shows right now due to stadium repairs, but she has been doing shows twice a day ever since she was captured in Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s.
One campaigner, Thomas Copeland says he's been protesting outside the attraction for four years, he said: "This place is horrific for animals. It is torture. Fifty-one years of captivity for that orca and you won't even get to see her, to see her condition."
It has been reported that she is a Southern resident killer whale, and is a part of a group of orcas that have been confirmed as an endangered species, with just over 70 left.
But despite how precious she is, it has been found that Lolita and other animals were fed rotten fish and had their food portions dramatically cut. Lolita's was cut by 30 pounds, the reports states.
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According to the report, her blood work revealed inflammation after eight days of eating the bad fish – which the vet had previously highlighted.
"The AV [Attending Veterinarian] was also concerned that she wasn’t getting enough water and that the lack of food volume would cause her distress and agitation," the report said.
The report then referenced how the orca had hit her lower jaw and that staff were advised that she should not be requested to do head in entry jumps – despite this she was forced to perform them anyway.
Commenting on the injury, Rose said: "She injured her jaw because they were making her do things that she was just too old to do. And the vet told them not to make her do them anymore. And they ignored the vet."
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The 17-page bombshell document revealed dozens of "critical" issues with the pools and enclosures for dolphins, seals and the ancient killer whale.
Inspectors said the animals had been subjected to poor water quality and inadequate shade – with several bottlenose dolphins being reported with eye lesions.
According to NPR, the report stated that dolphins had been injured and some had even died due to incompatible animals often being housed together.
PETA recently exposed the attraction after discovering that five bottlenose dolphins and one infant sea lion died between March 2019 and April 2020, reports Miami New Times.
Do you think attractions should continue to host killer whales? Leave your comments below.
They have called for an animal cruelty investigation of the Seaquarium by local prosecutors in Miami.
The Seaquarium said it's "dedicated to delivering the best care to all of our animals" and is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on issues identified in the report, according to NPR.
It has been reported that the current owner, Palace Entertainment, recently sold the aquarium to the Dolphin Company.
The new company has promised to make improvements to the facilities and to allow authorities to make unannounced inspections.
But campaigner Thomas said he was sceptical that the new owner will be able to make improvements to the conditions.
"You cannot put an orca in captivity where it is an environment that's big enough that matches what it sees in the wild," he said.
"They swim hundreds of miles in a day. But they can't do that here in a tank that's only 20 feet deep at its deepest point."
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