The oldest known orca, a 103-year-old great-grandmother, was spotted off the coast of British Columbia over Mother’s Day weekend. According to animal rights activists, this could be bad news for Sea World.
Known by whale experts as J2 or, more commonly, “Granny,” the killer whale was seen leading her pod of children, grandchildren, and great children.
“It's great news she's back, another year older, and thriving," said Michael Harris, executive director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, which spotted the whale.
Harris told the Vancouver Sun that Granny appeared “healthy and playful” as she foraged with her family.
But for Sea World, Granny’s ripe old age isn’t such good news, according to animal rights blog The Dodo.
While Sea World contends that “no one knows for sure how long killer whales live,” living examples like Granny give a good indication that their lifespans are a lot longer in the wild than in captivity, writes The Dodo's Jenny Kutner.
Although the Whale and Dolphin Conservation project estimates that whales born in captivity live an average of 4.5 years, mostly dying before they reach 20, wild orcas live an average of 50 to 60 years, according to NOAA.
Sea World puts orcas through other trials that lesson their life spans, like forcing them to breed when they are too young and separating them from the rest of their pod, causing great emotional strain, Kutner writes.
What’s more, Sea World has said that swimming is “not integral to a whale’s health and well-being,” justifying their cramped quarters. In fact, orcas can swim up to 100 miles a day. Granny and her family had just finished an 800-mile journey from California.
In response to criticism, Sea World points to its practice of rehabilitating and releasing beached whales. Communications VP Fred Jacobs told CNN last fall that has rescued 23,000 animals since the program began.
The Dodo has gathered almost 70,000 signatures on a petition to boycott Sea World until it releases its confined orcas.