Third marine mammal in three months dies at SeaWorld San Antonio

February 12 2016

Dart, a 12-year-old Pacific white-sided dolphin died last week following recent deaths of an 18-year-old orca and a 2-year-old beluga whale

SeaWorld San Antonio has reported that a third marine mammal has died there within three months. The park reported that Dart, a 12-year-old Pacific white-sided dolphin died on Thursday, February 4, his death following those of Unna, an 18-year-old orca, in December, and Stella, a 2-year-old beluga whale, on November 14. While the cause of Dart’s death is not yet known, captive marine mammals are known to frequently face exposure to human infection, bacteria, and chemicals, and to suffer from stress-related illnesses.

The typical life span of wild Pacific white-sided dolphins is more than 40 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Wild female orca whales generally live to about 50 years of age, and the life span of wild beluga whales is typically 35-50 years, according to NOAA.

 “We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of a third young marine mammal in as many months at SeaWorld San Antonio and urge SeaWorld to make the necropsy results for these animals public,” said Elizabeth Hogan, U.S. Oceans and Wildlife Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection. “Unlike their wild counterparts, marine mammals used in tourist shows spend their lives in completely unnatural and restrictive environments. Dolphins and whales are perfectly evolved to live and flourish in their wild ocean home, not within the confines of man-made concrete tanks.  To everyone who loves whales and dolphins, our advice is simple: don’t buy a ticket to see them in captive performances.”

Records of births and deaths of marine mammals maintained by the tourism industry are only made available to the public on a voluntary basis, meaning the exact average life span of captive dolphins and whales is not known. But seemingly healthy and normal captive cetaceans die at relatively early ages on a regular basis, usually with little or no warning and due to causes very different from their wild counterparts. In short, very few captive dolphins live to an old age and, even if they do, they perform until they are unable to. 

And while captive dolphins are usually fed dead fish by trainers to motivate them to perform in shows, wild dolphins are hunters, not scavengers.  Many pool-bound dolphins also often suffer from sunburn or skin lesions because they can’t escape to natural ocean depths.

World Animal Protection supports the proposed Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act, sponsored by Congressman Adam Schiff, to prohibit the taking, import and export of orcas for the purpose of public display. For more information, see our joint letter of support with several other leading organizations.

Marine mammals are wildlife, not entertainers. Click here to read our new global report on the suffering of performing dolphins and other wild animals in tourism and join the movement to help protect them.

"To everyone who loves whales and dolphins, our advice is simple: don’t buy a ticket to see them in captive performances.”

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