If you live in the UK or US you’re running out of excuses not to watch the documentary Blackfish. It’s had a cinematic release and been shown on the BBC, as well as being available on iTunes.
For the uninitiated, Blackfish is the story of an orca who recently killed its trainer at SeaWorld. As a result, SeaWorld trainers were prohibited from entering the water with the animals.
When I’m not slaving away over a hot computer screen and working on my next paper, I am a bit of a film geek. In fact I wrote the first draft of this post before heading to my monthly film pub quiz (we lost). Blackfish is a truly brilliant documentary. It takes you an emotional journey, is beautifully structured, and paints the orca, Tilikum, as a flawed, sympathetic character. I love it as a film.
But we’re scientists! Let’s take a critical look at the concept of keeping orcas in captivity. As I have access to scientific papers, I decided to do a short review of the literature. When talking about science I think it’s important to cite your sources (and no doubt I’ll say this many times in future) so I will link to papers. Unfortunately some of them, if not most, will be behind a paywall.
I wrote this post over a number of days, but it’s certainly not an exhaustive literature search. This is the kind of literature search I’d do if someone asked me what I thought of orcas in captivity.
So what did I find out?