APRIL 20, 2005, VANCOUVER - "Keeping whales in captivity is spectacularly cruel", says Michael O'Sullivan, Executive Director for The Humane Society of Canada (HSC). The group described the death of a killer whale, or Orca at SeaWorld San Diego as a "preventable tragedy". The 15 year old male orca known as "Splash" was originally born at Marineland, Canada on August 15, 1989, and moved to San Antonio in April, 1992.


Splash is the latest of 8 orca deaths at captive facilities since May of 2004 and the latest orca to die at SeaWorld at San Diego, since the death of Bjossa in 2001. For 20 long years, Bjossa made her home at the Vancouver Aquarium after being captured from the wild before she was transferred to SeaWorld San Diego and succumbing to a chronic lung infection.

"The numbers speak for themselves. The SeaWorld Corporation has averaged about one orca death per year since 1986 with 19 whales dead in 19 years. 140 Orcas have lost their lives in captivity since 1961 and 2005. What did SeaWorld San Diego think was going to happen?" asked O'Sullivan.

"The fate of killer whales born in captivity is appalling. Of 54 known pregnancies in captivity worldwide only 26 calves (48%) have survived," explained O'Sullivan, "and the Marineland Canada itself has experienced multiple calf deaths in captivity. Splash was one of eleven orca calves born at the Niagara Falls, ON facility, with his death, only one female orca remains alive."

“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that every person who ever paid an admission ticket or bought anything from SeaWorld San Diego & Marineland Canada’s gift shop is responsible for Splash being held captive, and ultimately for his death”, said O'Sullivan.

In 1994, a scientific study funded in part by The Humane Society of Canada provided dramatic new evidence that whales and dolphins are sentenced to a shorter lifespan when held in captivity. "We will continue with our campaign to persuade people that the price of a family admission ticket only supports the confinement and untimely death of these highly intelligent social animals," explained Michael O'Sullivan of The Humane Society of Canada.

A Canadian team of researchers with the International Marine Mammal Association Inc. which included Thomas H. Woodley, Janice L. Hannah and David Lavigne, Ph.D. of the University of Guelph, investigated the overall survival rates of captive and free ranging bottlenose dolphins, killer whales and beluga whales. They found that for all three species the annual survival rates for calves were lower in captivity than in the wild. For older animals, the annual survival rates of killer whales and bottlenose dolphins were significantly lower in captivity than in the wild.

"For example, calculations taken from the study showed that on average the expected lifespan of bottlenose dolphins in captivity could be as little as 14 years compared to between 20 to 29 years in the wild. Similarly, an average orca could live up to 58 years in the wild, but only 15 years in captivity," O'Sullivan reported.

"Since whales and dolphins die in the wild from pollution, drift nets, diseases and food shortages - conditions which are absent in captivity - then it would seem that the survival rates of these animals should be even higher in captivity - a presumption not supported by this research," said O'Sullivan.

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

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