Reality Star Tearfully Begs SeaWorld to Free Killer Whale

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Woman looks at orca at SeaWorld

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A reality star was moved to tears while begging SeaWorld to free its oldest killer whale.

Since the release of Blackfish (2013), SeaWorld has been in a constant battle with animal rights activists and sympathetic Guests over its captive animals. The documentary followed Tilikum, a captive male orca who spent most of his life at SeaWorld Orlando. During his lifetime, Tilikum was involved in three of the four fatal attacks committed by orcas in captivity – something the documentary put down to the psychological damage inflicted by his years in a tank.

Orca jumps into the pool
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SeaWorld has shifted its focus away from killer whales in recent years, instead prioritizing thrills – such as the newly-opened Pipeline: The Surf Coaster – and education on marine conservation. However, that hasn’t totally quelled its critics, with recent violent incidents amongst its captive dolphins stirring online controversy and even leading to a warning from the government.

With Miami Seaquarium announcing plans to free Lolita – the second-oldest orca in captivity – the conversation has now turned to a very specific captive killer whale: Corky. Located in SeaWorld San Diego, Corky pips Lolita to the title of the oldest captive orca. Now, activists want Corky to join Lolita in returning to the ocean.

SeaWorld Orca Encounter
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At its recent shareholders’ meeting, SeaWorld was confronted by reality star Lala Kent – attending on behalf of PETA – who pled Corky’s case for freedom.

The Vanderpump Rules star begged SeaWorld to create a plan for Corky’s relocation. “When will SeaWorld do its reputation a favor by creating a plan to move Corky to a seaside sanctuary, where she would have the opportunity to feel currents, dive deep, and possibly even be reunited with her family?”

Corky – or, to go by her proper name, Corky II – was captured from Pender Harbour off the coast of British Columbia in 1969, when she was four years old. Originally sold to Marineland of the Pacific in Palos Verdes, California, Corky has lived at SeaWorld San Diego since 1987.

sign at the entrance of SeaWorld San Diego, Sea World
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During her years in captivity, Corky became the first orca to welcome offspring. However, her first calf failed to nurse and died of pneumonia after just eleven days.

She later welcomed six more calves, but none survived; the oldest, Kiva, lived for just forty-six days. Her last pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, with the baby found at the bottom of her tank.

This isn’t the first call to release Corky. In 2017, a Canadian orca research organization created a banner with over 17,000 pieces of artwork stretching over 1.5 miles to promote her freedom. A 40-acre sea sanctuary has also been suggested as a spot for her relocation, close to where she was originally captured.

Woman looks at orca at SeaWorld
Credit: SeaWorld

SeaWorld has previously argued that freeing Corky would be too risky. Existing cases of freeing killer whales don’t set a strong precedent; Keiko, the whale famous for Free Willy (1993), died within a year of his release after struggling to adapt to the wild and instead seeking out human company.

Former trainers of Lolita have made a similar case against her freedom. The longer an animal spends in captivity, the harder it is to return to the wild. Whether SeaWorld listens or responds to PETA and Kent’s pleas remains to be seen. But for Corky – who’s spent 54 years in a tank – the reality is that freedom, even in a sea pen, isn’t as easy a solution as it sounds.

How do you feel about freeing orcas into the wild? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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