Two years ago I went to SeaWorld San Diego with my kids and without knowing anything about orcas felt disturbed watching the show, and the feeling lasted for several weeks afterwards. It didn't feel right, watching these magnificent animals flip and splash and take a bow. I saw the dolphin at the "petting pool" look at me in the way a person would look at me. I felt so sad that for 20 minutes of "entertainment" the orcas as well as the dolphins had to endure a lifetime of being confined in a tank doing this same routine every day. I inherently knew they were intelligent and complex and didn't belong in captivity. So to go back to SeaWorld now knowing what I know about their intelligence, long-distance travel, complex social lives, family, culture, dialects, echolocation, and foraging skills was unsettling to say the least.
Corky is the gentlest, most willing, most energetic of their orcas, the trainer said. She is the one paired up with a new trainer, he added. She is the one to welcome a new orca to her pod, he said. She is the matriarch. We love her, he said.
A few days after the visit I came across this quote by Edwin Way Teale. "Those who wish to pet and baby wildlife love them, but those who respect their natures and wish to let them live their natural lives, love them more." We need to love Corky more. Let her feel the ocean on her skin. The tides. The current. Let her explore the ocean floor as she dives deep and breach when she chooses to breach. Let her live out her final days with dignity in a sea sanctuary. After nearly 45 years, Corky deserves it. They all deserve it.