AboutZoos, Since 2008


Lives of Killer whales in cap­tiv­ity need to be enriched

pub­lished 06 Jan­u­ary 2017 | mod­i­fied 06 Jan­u­ary 2017

Killer whalesKeep­ing killer whales (Orci­nus orca) in zoos and aquar­i­ums has become highly con­tro­ver­sial. In a new paper, experts out­line sev­eral novel ideas for improv­ing the lives of killer whales in zoo­log­i­cal insti­tu­tions by enhanc­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion, feed­ing, envi­ron­ment, and health of the ani­mals in order to elicit nat­ural behav­iours seen in the wild. Their ideas are pub­lished on 5 Jan­u­ary in the Inter­na­tional Zoo Year­book.

The fact that these ani­mals can be kept in cap­tiv­ity is amaz­ing in itself from a zoo­log­i­cal per­spec­tive. We are now mov­ing into a time when ani­mals that we could not con­ceive being kept in zoo­log­i­cal insti­tu­tions are becom­ing rel­a­tively com­mon; how­ever once the dif­fi­cult ini­tial stages of keep­ing them alive have been achieved, peo­ple want to know that their psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal wel­fare is also being con­sid­ered,” said Prof. Gra­ham Law, co-​author of the article.

… a change in the way that ani­mals have been kept in cap­tiv­ity has been slowly evolv­ing using envi­ron­men­tal enrichment.
Gra­ham Law, co-​author, NACWO, Insti­tute of Bio­di­ver­sity, Ani­mal Health and Com­par­a­tive Med­i­cine, Uni­ver­sity of Glas­gow, United Kingdom »

For many species the changes have been great, but for other less well-​understood species change has been slow as the need for change has been poorly under­stood,” Law adds. With this killer whale arti­cle, Prof. Law and his col­leagues hope to start a process whereby peo­ple become more crit­i­cal and ques­tion­ing of the hus­bandry sys­tems in place for all species in cap­tiv­ity, with the goal of achiev­ing a bet­ter bal­ance between their phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal well­be­ing. And achiev­ing a greatly enhanced edu­ca­tional value of killer whales and other cetaceans that are kept in cap­tiv­ity. The authors indi­cate that the recent deci­sion to stop the cur­rent breed­ing pro­gramme of killer whales in the USA doesn’t mean that fur­ther improve­ment of hus­bandry must stop. Because the whales in zoo­log­i­cal insti­tu­tions today will sur­vive for decades to come.

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Although the authors of the arti­cle do not make a judge­ment as to whether killer whales and other cetaceans should be kept in zoo­log­i­cal insti­tu­tions or not, this ques­tion still remains of course.

(Source: Wiley press release, 05.01.2017)

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