While supporters of orca captivity argue that these drugs help orcas stay healthy, marine mammal scientist Naomi Rose of the Animal Welfare Institute told The Dodo that life in a tank is the root of the problem.
"I can respond with confidence that all of these medications are given as a result of problems associated with captivity," she said. "Wild orcas don't get any medications at all and they seem to do just fine."
Tagamet, an antacid used to treat ulcers, was given daily to all the adult orcas, according to Ray, a trainer who worked at SeaWorld Orlando from 1987 to 1990. Ulcers are a problem in many captive marine mammals and are often related to stress and environment.
In his book "Death at SeaWorld," journalist David Kirby chronicles the use of Tagamet at the marine park.
According to Jett, who was a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando for four years in the 1990s, some of the orcas were "nearly always on antibiotics," like Clindamycin, to prevent infections. Whales in captivity are susceptible to tooth infections because they damage their teeth on concrete surfaces, and infection from injuries caused by other whales crammed into tanks with them.
Antibiotics, in turn, can make cetaceans (whales, porpoises and dolphins) prone to fungal infections, so the trainers also injected the fish they ate with an antifungal medicine called Nystatin, trainers said.
Kirby discussed the use of antibiotics in his book, noting that "trainers routinely stuff the gills of fish with antibiotics, antacids and vitamins ... "