Locking up animals for recreation and entertainment is a practice that has been widely criticized. Long-term confinement and the disruption of their natural habitat transforms usually docile animals into violent and aggressive creatures. That, coupled with the negligence of those in charge, results in an unbalanced and hostile living environment for these beautiful animals.
Sarah Fischbeck, former water quality diver of SeaWorld, reveals the horrifying scenario on the other side of the glass wall that visitors never see and Sea World doesn’t want you to know about. Fischbeck worked with SeaWorld for six years, maintaining and cleaning tanks in which the aquatic animals were housed and frequently diving with the animals experiencing stress induces anxiety and aggression.
Small tanks that contain the various animals have a strong negative impact on the inhabitants psyches, especially orcas. Due to the cramped environments, orcas turn to in-house fighting. On a number of occasions, Sarah and other divers would find peels of whale skin at the bottom of the tank along with “rake marks” on the whales bodies that indicated a recent attack by another whale in the same enclosure. Fischbeck retells an incidence where upon arrival, she found a whale with severe lacerations on her belly, in a pool adjacent to her usual enclosure. It was decided that she most likely voluntarily tried to escape her enclosure and was forced up and over a metal grate with sharp projections on the top due to tank mate bullying. Fischbeck told The Dodo that “she was being picked on so much her only escape was over that locked barrier,” Fischbeck said. “And she was pushed into a locked pool.”
The whales display a myriad of unusual behaviors that express their frustration and anger. The orcas hunt down birds, as is their natural instinct, but instead of eating the bird, they tore them up into pieces—a clear sign of frustration.
Fischbeck reports that although the whales were kept locked away when the divers needed to clean the tank, the orcas would try every way possible to break through by ramming the gates. SeaWorld, however, turned their cheek to this very obvious threat to their employees and pent up aggression of their animals. Fischbeck reported that they were never even handed a book of procedures on what to do if the animals had managed to enter the tank. Instead, the authorities resorted to Valium dosing to chemically pacify the animals. Dolphins, orcas, and belugas were all subjected to semi-regular sedative dosing instead of dealing with the actual issues at hand.
The aggression was not only confined to orcas. After repeated painful miscarriages, a beluga named Ruby, was bred continuously. She had her first calf through artificial insemination in 2008 and Ruby murdered the infant. The baby was reportedly resuscitated and kept away from the mother for a month before it died. That version of the story was only known to those on the inside. According to the public reports of that birth, her first born was sickly and she had rejected it. The horrific incident however did not shake the conscience of SeaWorld enough. She was bred again and again. Her second pregnancy resulted in another attempt to kill her baby before they were separated and her third pregnancy in 2012, resulted in a miscarriage which damaged her kidneys.
Ruby died two years later and Sea World publicly reported that a necropsy was planned but no news ever came from it. Fischbeck told, The Dodo “You can’t find Ruby’s necropsy anywhere. I’ve asked my past coworkers and everyone’s really hush-hush about it. No one wants to lose their jobs.”
Repetitive compulsive behavior, a symptom of captivity stress is exhibited by all species. A walrus called Obie would repeatedly regurgitate her food, Ferdinand, a beluga whale, would continuously jump out of water, performing an act of predator surveillance.
Aggression and violence against the divers is an everyday occurrence. Fischer, herself, has been a victim. Covered in bruises after the attack, she lodged a complaint. SeaWorld responded by suspending her diving license.
In 2013, Fischbeck had had enough and decided to leave the organization voluntarily. Although other trainers of the organization have supported Fischer’s claim, SeaWorld has vehemently denied it calling it “a complete distortion of facts.”
With so many former employees and journalists speaking out on the subject, it’s incredible that they are still able to keep their doors open. Although they have seen a decline in visitors since the movie Black Fish, it doesn’t seem that they will ever be fairly punished for their negligence and the inhumane treatment of their animals and employees. No matter how much “good” they do in their marine research centers, conservation efforts, or rescue and rehabilitation programs, it will not mask the surfacing details of what really goes on at their parks behind closed doors. Share if you want to continue to help spread these findings and put an end to the animal abuse and captivity.