Trouble in Paradise
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OMG GP--thoughts?!?!?!

In regards to Sea World and the death of the trainer. It is a tragedy when someone loses their life especially so dramatically. Now PETA (we all know how we feel about them) is out stamping for Tilly's release back into the wild.  It is my understanding that an animal that has been in captivity(even if the animal was acquired from the wild) for so long would probably not thrive if it were placed back in the wild.  I am sure there are exceptions though. As someone that has worked in zoo's, what are your thoughts on this???

I think there are great benefits to having zoo's, aquariums and parks such as Sea World and the Wild Animal Park.  I know that Sea World rehabilitates many animals and releases them back(a baby grey whale comes to mind as I write this---it was AWESOME to see this animal up close by the way) but somehow that doesn't get publicized as much.  

Thoughts??

Re: OMG GP--thoughts?!?!?!

  • I heard somewhere off the coast of south america, there's a "sanctuary" for animals like Tilikum. They really need to let him go--he obviously still has his wild nature--he wasn't raised in captivity afterall. Sea World is begging for lawsuits if they keep this whale.
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  • I think there's probably too many armchair marine biologists weighing in on the matter, PETA or otherwise. Really, it's OK to not have an opinion on something you know nothing about.
  • The nest ate my post.

    Knowing nothing technical or scientific about it, my first instinct says no one knows the risks better than these trainers. I feel for the man's family but I'm hard pressed to believe he wasn't fully aware that he was working with a dangerous animal.

    I don't see how you have grounds to sue if you are even better aware of the risks than the ones who drew up the contract. And any trainer following is more than aware.



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  • The only quotes I've seen on this have been by "marine mammal activists."  There have been almost zero comments by marine mammal behaviorists, animals behaviorists, or marine biologists.

    I feel like the media is making this a bigger deal then it is.  It hasn't been said if this was an aggressive move or if he was playing.  And of course these animals are very dangerous.  The trainers are very aware of the dangers and still make the decision to work with them. 

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  • image blackfire5th:

    The only quotes I've seen on this have been by "marine mammal activists."  There have been almost zero comments by marine mammal behaviorists, animals behaviorists, or marine biologists.

    Excellent point.

    For an animal with as complex a social hierarchy and culture as killer whales, they are not good candidates for being released into the wild.  Elephants and most primates can't be released into the wild for the same reason - they can't just "fit in" to existing, wild groups.

    Zoos and aquaria are sanctuaries for injured animals, and at worst they house "animal ambassadors" - perfectly healthy animals that people see, and then care for their wild counterparts.  And to make money to have these animals and for conservation, you gotta have whales jumping through hoops and Lord knows what else.  And scientists research these animals at the same time and are continually learning to improve their environment, in captivity and in the wild. 

    But I must say I do NOT like the circus-like theatrics that some animals in captivity do.  At the Cincinnati Zoo, we no longer have Elephant Rides, because we're trying to educate people on what the WILD animals are like, and that animals do not exist for our use and enjoyment.  I'm afraid SeaWorld may be behind us in that...

    But I agree, all these trainers know the risk of working with one of the largest carnivorous animals on the planet, so lawsuits shouldn't be an issue.

  • image megd06:
    I heard somewhere off the coast of south america, there's a "sanctuary" for animals like Tilikum. They really need to let him go--he obviously still has his wild nature--he wasn't raised in captivity afterall. Sea World is begging for lawsuits if they keep this whale.

    They're all going to have their "wild nature" - it takes hundreds of generations to weed that out, which is called domestication and we've been very successful at it, especially with some less intelligent animals.  That won't happen with killer whales.

    Every wild animal is a ticking time bomb, and zookeepers and trainers know this.

  • image OMG Guinea Pigs!!:

    image megd06:
    I heard somewhere off the coast of south america, there's a "sanctuary" for animals like Tilikum. They really need to let him go--he obviously still has his wild nature--he wasn't raised in captivity afterall. Sea World is begging for lawsuits if they keep this whale.

    They're all going to have their "wild nature" - it takes hundreds of generations to weed that out, which is called domestication and we've been very successful at it, especially with some less intelligent animals.  That won't happen with killer whales.

    Every wild animal is a ticking time bomb, and zookeepers and trainers know this.

    Yeah, some animals, like killer whales, are just not meant for domestication; they're natural dispositions aren't amenable to it.  Like, the reason they aren't riding zebras around in Africa is that zebras can be really nasty and are almost impossible to domesticate.

     Also, I'm not sure it's accurate to say that we've been more successful with the less intelligent animals.  Dogs, for example, are actually quite smart.  Rather, a decrease in intelligence (a smaller brain) is generally one of the features which accompanies domestication.  I have heard some researchers say they think we're domesticating ourselves; hence why our brains are actually getting smaller ;-)

  • Well, we're most successful in domesticating animals that look to a leader (which is us) - herd or pack animals, like horses, goats and sheep, and dogs.  Which is why many people have a hard time disciplining or training cats - they are incredibly intelligent, but they don't care if they p!ss off a "leader" - they don't understand what that means.

    And dogs really aren't terribly intelligent compared to most wild animals, including of course wolves, as you mentioned - it's easy to mistake obedient for intelligent.  And dogs are certainly obedient.

  • image OMG Guinea Pigs!!:

    And dogs really aren't terribly intelligent compared to most wild animals, including of course wolves, as you mentioned - it's easy to mistake obedient for intelligent.  And dogs are certainly obedient.

    I don't know; I suppose it may depend on how you're measuring intelligence.  Some studies relating to social intelligence show dogs out-performing chimps.  I'm thinking of Brian Hare's studies (with Michael Tomasello and Josep Call).

  • Intelligent at what, though?  Tasks we've bred into them for hundreds of generations to perform?  I'll check out the study, but usually with the ones I've seen, it's performing tasks that are inherently irrelevant to the chimp, and something a dog should be a pro at.  And even in performing the task, the animal must "do what Boss says," or "do a good job and I'll get a treat," and many wild animals couldn't care less about that.  How can you determine whether failure of a task is non-intelligence, or disobedience?

    I've worked with a few predator researchers (a prof who studies wolves in Yellowstone), and apparently even our smartest dogs (seeing-eye dogs, hunting dogs, police dogs, etc.) have the intelligence of a 4-month-old wolf.  But despite how smart it is, a wolf isn't going to pull a person out of a burning building.   We don't want the intelligence of a wolf, we want obedience and loyalty, and an awesome sense of smell (I recently saw that Scientific Frontiers episode where dogs are locating cancer in urine samples, which was crazy), and we've done an awesome job at getting that out of dogs.


  • image OMG Guinea Pigs!!:

    Intelligent at what, though? 

    The age old question: what does intelligence mean and how should you measure it?  Is it just brain size? - 'cause then we would have to say modern humans are dumber than Neanderthals.  Is it performance on a specific task?  Then how do you know if the task was just poorly designed and the subject had no idea what you wanted it to do?  And, if we've selectively bred for a capability, does it really make the animal with the capability any less intelligent?

    I would agree that dogs probably aren't as "smart" as wolves but they are much better dogs than wolves are, ya know?  It's like saying humans are smarter than chimps, which based upon all of the studies humans have run seems true.  But, which modern American would really be capable of becoming alpha in a chimpanzee group?  Probably not any (and sure, this has a lot to do with physical strength but there is also a lot of "politics" involved).

    I'm no dog expert, so I really shouldn't be arguing about how smart they are or aren't.  My point was just that decreased brain size and "less intelligence" is one of the suite of features that comes with domestication (along with floppy ears and a curly tail Wink).  So, you can usually always say that the domesticated version is less intelligent than the wild version.  However, it doesn't necessarily mean that less intelligent species are more easily domesticated, ya know?

     

  • image mmeloy:
    image OMG Guinea Pigs!!:

    Intelligent at what, though? 

    So, you can usually always say that the domesticated version is less intelligent than the wild version.  However, it doesn't necessarily mean that less intelligent species are more easily domesticated, ya know?

     

    Yeah, that's true.  I should have said "pack-oriented" instead, and cats are probably the only exception to that (though whether they've been truly domesticated or not is another issue entirely!)

  • He is part of their breeding program. I think that is their main reason for keeping him in captivity. Personally Id euthanize him just as I would if my dog attacked someone for no known reason....
  • image 3sthecharm:
    He is part of their breeding program. I think that is their main reason for keeping him in captivity. Personally Id euthanize him just as I would if my dog attacked someone for no known reason....

    Well, dogs are insane, and it's YOUR dog.  No one "owns" a wild animal - they're always "on loan" from their country of origin.  So euthanasia is hopefully out of the question.

    Again, people who work with these animals know and accept these risks.  

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