Saturday, March 11, 2017

Part Two: Elizabeth Shares more Damning SeaWorld Photos & Information

Ike's damaged mouth from jaw popping. Photo: Elizabeth
At our last blog, here, you met marine biology student, Elizabeth, who uses her proximity and season pass to access SeaWorld's California orca "collection." She has the goal of collecting forensic evidence and sharing truth regarding the conditions of captivity. Elizabeth is a cetacean lover who imagined becoming an orca trainer, at one point, but now advocates for captive whales and dolphins using a camera. We're honored to publish more of her photographs this week and pleased to share more information on Elizabeth's personal story via a brief Q&A session.  In her own words:
I witnessed a very aggressive attack between two orcas that changed the way I viewed them in captivity. After years of doing my own research on the captivity industry and learning how SeaWorld obtained many of its orcas I decided to take action. I’m currently in school for marine biology... Before I decided to go to school I really wanted to be a SeaWorld trainer.

Photo by Elizabeth shows extensive rake marks on Makani 

Q: Elizabeth, when did u first recognize the dental problems of captive killer whales?

A: I've noticed it since I was young. I even remember asking a trainer as a kid and getting the typical SeaWorld public relations (PR) answers. I started documenting each individual orca's teeth to show the public just how bad they are and still continue to decline.

Q: Dr John Jett and I have written several papers that discuss this issue. Have you read any of those?

A: Yes, your and JJ's paper in 2011, Keto & Tilikum Express the Stress of Orca Capvitity 

This solution was reportedly dripped into the eyes of a captive dolphin at SeaWorld, presumably for infection

Q: Have you witnessed teeth irrigations and how often do the trainers flush the broken teeth

A:  Flushing of teeth is hard to capture since trainers don't typically want the public to see this. But I have seen trainers do it. Normally teeth irrigations are performed after shows since the orcas received fish that can get impacted in the open [bore] holes. But this isn't always the case [that they do it after shows].

With mouth open, a captive orca is preparing to have her teeth flushed out. Fish gets trapped in the open bore holes

Captive orca is getting her broken left maxillary teeth flushed out by a SeaWorld trainer. Photo by Elizabeth 

Q: Have you witnessed orcas jaw popping or biting down in the steel gates?

A:  I have seen many orcas chewing on gates. I even have video of Kalia doing it. I also see Ike and a few others jaw popping. They do it a lot out of boredom.

Photo by Elizabeth shows the damaged mouth and jaw of Northern Resident killer whale Corky 

Q: Elizabeth, your research is valuable. Thank you for sharing this photographic evidence. How many hours or days of observations have you done in the past year or years?

A: Oh gosh...  I've been doing this on and off for a while. But I really cracked down on documenting it all since late 2015. I go to SeaWorld at least 2-3 times a month. Each visit lasts for about 5 hours; unless security chases me away.

Elizabeth's photo shows Shouka's damaged lower jaw with Amaya next to her. 

Q: Have you watched the whales grind their teeth on concrete?

A: Yes, I have. They often do this under the water so it's hard to capture it on film. But normally you will see paint left on their teeth

Drs Visser, Jett & Ventre could not determine what this photograph of Orkid's teeth depicts. Pigment vs tooth?

Q:  What message would you like to share with the people who will be appreciating & viewing your teeth photographs?

A:  Always speak up. The more voices we have talking about this issue the more changes we will see. People sometimes forget that SeaWorld is a for profit & publicly traded corporation, not a conservation organization. Profit and attendance means everything to them. So the more people that speak and share this information...  the more aware the public becomes & the more pressure it puts on the company to change its ways.