[MARMAM] New paper on orca health in captivity

Howard Garrett howard at orcanetwork.org
Fri Jan 21 00:37:44 PST 2011

The paper described and linked below was written by Dr. John Jett, visiting
research professor at Stetson University in Florida, and Dr. Jeffrey Ventre,
a physician in New Orleans, LA. Both are former trainers at SeaWorld in
Orlando. The paper was written to help explain the tragic death of two
trainers in the past year and prevent further incidents. The authors plan to
produce a version of the paper for peer review and publication in the near
future, but time constraints in regard to upcoming events required that it
be made public now. There is some new information here that may be of
interest to marmam readers.


Some of the major themes include the precursors and symptoms of stresses in
orcas in captivity, shortened longevity, breeding of young mothers, severe
tooth damage found in many captives and associated systemic illnesses,
inbreeding, and the social tensions that erupt in hostile behavior or
violence toward other whales or trainers. 


Ventre and Jett provide detailed observations and statistical calculations
that add up to an abundance of evidence that captivity tends to lead to
early death in orcas, and that stresses, social tensions and poor health are
chronic issues in marine park facilities. A statistic is compiled called
"Mean Duration of Captivity" (MDC), drawn from diverse credible sources,
that allow overall comparisons with free-ranging orcas, revealing low
average longevity in captivity.


The authors discuss how the conditions of captivity relate to the two
trainer deaths, and arrive at suggested mitigations. Ventre and Jett have
kept their focus on the evidence, on what's happening to the orcas, a key
element that is seldom seen in the controversies over orca captivity. 


"Keto & Tilikum Express the Stress of Orca Captivity" is available at The
Orca Project at:




with appendices, original documents, and links to related postings.


Howard Garrett


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