Captive orca Lolita left alone at Miami Seaquarium during Hurricane Irma
If this doesn't drill into your head that animals, particularly animals like Orcas, don't belong in captivity, then I don't know what will.
Miami Seaquarium had landed itself in some seriously hot water online after it abandoned its animals during Hurricane Irma, with the majority of the focus surrounding a beautiful female Orca whale.
A birds eye-view photo of Lolita, the female Orca, has gone viral on Twitter - as it shows her swimming alone in a tiny pool as Florida prepared itself for one of the worst storms in recent history. The tweet has gone on to be retweeted 25,000 times, and plenty of people are calling for action to be taken against the park and other resorts like it which keep animals in captivity.
The aquarium is located on Virginia Key, a barrier island off of the coast of Miami that was thought to be particularly at risk to the adverse weather conditions that hit the area earlier this week. In the image, Lolita can be seen alongside several dolphins, surrounded by a thin tin roof on the top of the stadium, and swimming in very shallow water.
Anna MacLaughlin, the environmental conservationist who posted the picture, captioned it:
"Bad enough that captive orca exist, but unlike other animals they can’t be evacuated during #Irma. Barbaric that Lolita has been abandoned."
The conditions that Lolita has been left in is a stark contrast to a group of Dolphins in Cuba, who were airlifted to safety before Irma hit the island. Jeffrey Ventre, a former SeaWorld trainer who now campaigns against Orca captivity spoke to the Observer regarding Lolita, saying:
"The shallow water columns of captivity force the animals to be exposed."
"The threats to exposed captive killer whales include missile injuries, blunt force trauma, stress, and foreign objects in the pool, which can be swallowed."
"In nature the whales can ride out storms, spending their time predominantly below the surface and at greater depths."
MacLaughlin also explained the threats that the whale is at risk of, tweeting:
"Flying debris, tank damage, drowning, electrocution, contaminated water. Simply put, a wild animal should never've been in this situation."
"In the wild cetaceans (whales and dolphins) will generally dive to deeper waters to avoid the worst of a storm."
"Agree there's no easy way to evacuate a 3.5tn orca, merely highlighting if you have no evacuation plan, the animal shouldn't be in your care"
The aquarium gave an update on their animals and staff on Twitter, saying that they are all safe but have given no further update or statement regarding their treatment of Lolita and the other animals.
The welfare of Orcas has been a hot topic of discussion for years now, ever since the release of the documentary Blackfish, which exposed the terrible effects that captivity can have on these incredible animals. If you haven't watched it, I highly advise that you do, as it is both dumbfounding and eye-opening.
In light of the documentary, SeaWorld has seen a major downturn is business, as people choose to boycott the park until they release the animals. The company is also now under federal investigation for defrauding investors, by apparently misrepresenting their current business downturn.
Like I said, if this sad image doesn't make you realise that animals aren't meant for captivity, then I don't know what will. Yes animals are cute, and yes they can be funny, but they're animals, and they belong in their natural habitat, not in cages or tanks.