13 min read

"Orca Experts Go to SeaWorld" Fact Check

On October 7th 2015, former senior orca trainer John Hargrove and New Zealand orca biologist Ingrid Visser have visited SeaWorld San Diego to film footage for their documentary project "Superpod". Both John and Ingrid make serious claims about SeaWorld which includes repetitive behaviors and apparently an orca mother (Kasatka) rejecting her calf (Makani) to nurse. However, many of these claims fail to show the truth about SeaWorld. Let's begin.

1. John Hargrove's Introduction John Hargrove introduces himself and his former job as a SeaWorld trainer. He states he became a senior trainer in 1993 in SeaWorld San Antonio and resigned in 2012 for good. John did become a SeaWorld trainer in 1993, however he leaves out his full job as an orca trainer. The truth is, John worked at SeaWorld San Antonio from 1993-1995, then SeaWorld San Diego from 1995-2001 as an apprentice trainer. He became a senior and supervising trainer in Marineland Antibes from 2001-2003, and then he returned to SeaWorld San Antonio from 2008-2012. (Evidence:http://realjohnhargrove.com/2015/03/the-john-hargrove-career-fish-story/)

2. Ingrid Visser's Introduction Ingrid Visser introduced herself and states to forgotten when she last worked with orcas. She also states that she has been inspired by orcas since she was a kid. In this scene, she hasn't stated anything about SeaWorld, just her opinion on orcas.

3. "I doubt any of them seen whales in the wild. It's this type of brainwashing mentality that all the orca scientists are crazy people."

If you viewed the video, you would know these exact words said by John Hargrove. He states that visitors to SeaWorld haven't seen wild orcas and they are brainwashed. John most likely doesn't know the definition of brainwash. Brainwash - make (someone) adopt radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible pressure. SeaWorld doesn't use forcible pressure to make visitors visit their park. They simply invite and suggest people that love animals with advertisements.

4. SeaWorld keeps their whales in barren environments.

Ingrid talks about experience with wild orcas and then she accuses SeaWorld of placing their whales in barren environments. Yes, it's understandable since there's nothing in the tanks, but the thing is. Whales at SeaWorld are given toys, kelp, and trainer interaction daily. In fact, SeaWorld used to have artificial rockwork in Pool E from 1995-2010. They were removed because of trainer safety reasons. Although the rockwork was removed, whales at SeaWorld are still given the enrichment they need to stay simulated. The Blue World Project would bring back the rockwork, include harvested kelp, a water treadmill system, and even live fish. As you just heard, the whales aren't in a barren environment Ingrid wants you to believe. (Evidence: Wild whale and captive whale interacting with KelpSeaWorld San Diego's Pool E before rockwork removal)

5. Kalia tapping Ingrid discusses about how whales at SeaWorld display stereotypic behaviors that are abnormal, repetitive and no obvious function. Ingrid then shows footage of a female orca named Kalia tapping against a wall. She describes the behavior as "staring at a concrete wall". John expresses how he used to be in the tanks with the whales after Ingrid speaks. This could actually be an act of echolocation, a feature many toothed whales have. Bottlenose Dolphins and Spotted Dolphins have been seen doing this behavior in the wild. Because orcas are dolphins, that makes the behavior not unnatural. (Evidence: Dolphin echolocating for foodSpotted Dolphin doing the same behavior)

6. Kasatka rejecting Makani to nurse due to depression Apparently John and Ingrid claim they see Kasatka (They don't mention Kasatka's name) too depressed to feed Makani (Makani's name isn't mentioned). John states that Makani is head bumping Kasatka for milk. This is a pure lie. Makani was nearly 3 years old at the time the video was uploaded to YouTube. The final nursing age for orca calves is 1 year. The only whale at SeaWorld still nursing is Amaya. If Makani were still nursing, he would of been way smaller. Even though it's likely calves don't 100 percent stop at 1, you probably get the point. Makani was simply swimming under Kasatka like most orca calves do. John hasn't worked at SeaWorld San Diego since 2001, and Makani was born in 2013. That's 12 years after John left San Diego, which means he has no experience with Makani. (Evidence: Nursing age by NOAA)

7. Kasatka bruised and Makani trying to get milk This is the main scene of the video. Ingrid claims Kasatka was bruised due to Makani trying and trying to get milk. Although the whale you see is Kasatka, the "bruising" isn't from Makani trying to get milk. It's actually a fungal skin infection. A couple of years ago, Kasatka had this skin patch on her tail. Makani would never be this rough with his mother. If you want to see Bruising in the wild, and it's WAY worse than in captivity. (Evidence Kasatka's fungal skin infectionA washed up wild orca bruised up.) The next clip you see, Ingrid tries to persuade the viewers that Makani is constantly trying to get milk. John describes it as a crying baby needing food but the mother is too depressed. This is completely untrue. Makani is acting playfully with his mother, and it is not at all trying to get milk. Makani has displayed these behaviors before and they are not at all what John and Ingrid try to make you believe. (Evidence:Makani interacting with his Family) Kasatka logging is most likely taking a nap. Logging actually happens in the wild. (Evidence: Captive whale logging on top and wild whale logging on bottom )

8. Ingrid and John's opinion Ingrid states that visitors need a better education about orcas, and she asks about why you should tell people these behaviors are "unnatural". Ingrid has been proven wrong again. She only is sticking with opinions, and not facts. Although she's a master in wild orca research, she isn't good as an animal rights activist. John simply says SeaWorld is a toxic place.

9. Ingrid and John get kicked out and Ingrid's conclusion This scene shows John and Ingrid being kicked out of SeaWorld property. A security guard is seen escorting them to the SeaWorld entrance and John actually questions why they are being kicked out. The security guard replies with "My supervisor will speak with you at the front of the park". John and Ingrid didn't film their discussion with the supervisor. They went to SeaWorld on October 7, 2015. That's roughly the day before the California Coastal Commission's decision to approve the Blue World Project by SeaWorld. Ingrid states that SeaWorld dislikes her as a scientist and she knows wild behaviors and that everyone should really look into orcas in captivity. Ingrid is likely upset should couldn't take more footage to suit her animal rights agenda.

10. John's conclusion and finale John states he chose to speak out against captivity because of his guilt of abandoning the whales he worked with. He also states we have no right to rob their lives and disguise their treatment for conservation. What John doesn't tell the viewer, is that he resigned his job due to a safety protocol violation and he even got demoted to Sea Lion and Otter Stadium. He is likely angry he couldn't work with orcas anymore. (Evidence:John's contradictions and SeaWorld staff stating his demotion and violation.)

There you go, Kasatka isn't a depressed whale, and Makani is past his nursing age. John Hargrove and Ingrid Visser are only trying to grow the animal rights agenda.