Most extremists claim that some marine mammals such as bottlenose dolphins, and orcas may not live long in captivity. True that some animals died young in captivity, just like they would in nature. In the wild, marine mammals have to deal with predators(except for larger animals such as orcas and most of the great whales while sharks may attack much young calves), competition with other members of their kind for food sources when it gets scarce, diseases, and of course competition with human fishermen for fish sources. In captivity, they do receive 24/7 proper care from trainers, animal care staff, and veterinarians regardless of what behaviors they may show to them during training sessions, shows or towards their tank mates thus, their lifespan in most cases reach twice than expected out in the wild. An Example of this is Nellie, a bottlenose dolphin in her late fifties living at Marineland Florida. Most captive dolphins would many live to be around 30-40 years of age, but Nellie is 57 years old(She was born in 1953) and has past the maximum lifespan for bottlenose dolphins in captivity being around 40 years old. For wild dolphins to reach such a great old age, it would have to take a lot of experience and a number of survival skills to face all the dangers of the oceans that they may endure.
As you may know, Imprinting is a behavior when animal parents show maternal interest in their newborn babies. This may also mean any maternal-like figure that may so interest in any baby weather the parent is a biological or adopted to the infant. Take Smooshi for example, she is a Pacific Walrus who came to MarineLand in Canada as a one-year-old pup has completely imprinted herself to her handler Phil Demers. The Media would later on describe this imprint Smooshi has on her human surrogate mother as a so-called "Love Affair" when Smooshi had naturally attached herself to Phil after he stood next to her during a vet-exam. Imprinting is NOT a behavior that can be trained and taught to an animal by humans, the behavior happens on its own and takes some time for the baby/infant to successfully respond to the parent figure.
What many extremists say about most marine mammal shows is that "they lack education" when there are educational leaflets that are available for park visitors/interaction program participants to pick up and they can learn about the animals they encounter. SeaWorld for example has an educational video on orcas (killer whales) that is shown to the audience just before the shows begin while some other shows share information on marine mammals from recent biological backgrounds that were learned about them from both the wild and in captive studies. Members of the education department are always available to answer any questions that guests may ask about the animals performing in shows before, in between, and after shows since the trainers are would be too busy getting the animals prepared for the show of the day. Some marine mammal shows do have volunteer sessions as the show goes, where guest members are pick to meet a performing animal up close in person and take part in hands-on training session with the handlers at heir side(behaviors that guests will have the animals perform may vary by guest and show). In the End, the guest will have the appreciation they have for the animals they have encountered during the shows and may inspire some to learn more about them.
Many People believe that moving an animal from one facility to another is easy as one, two, three. In reality, it is really NOT an easy task at all. An animal transfer takes months of planning and funding depending on the number of animals that the facility plans to acquire. For some facilities planning to acquire a new animals species into their collection, that takes months of preparing an exhibit size and tank standards that would be best suited for them thus, they have prepare enrichment for the new arrivals and as well as create life-support systems that would keep pools clean from bacteria, and algae that may harm the animals and cause health problems. What Most extremists claim regarding marine mammal transfers is "FAMILIES ARE FOREVER TORN APART FROM EACH OTHER" yes, some animals do have to be separated from their relatives because in most zoological parks, inbreeding is becoming a huge issue among certain animal species in captivity. Like Taku* for example was moved out of his birthplace in Orlando after it was discovered that he fathered Nalani with his own mother Katina. SeaWorld like any zoological park with orcas has NO input regarding inbreeding expect to only transfer them or at least acquire an un-related animal from different zoological park for a breeding loan. Once when an animal arrives at a new facility, it can takes several days for the animal to settle down and adjust to his/her new environment and the new companions in whom he/she would have to share the exhibit with. However, prior to being introduced to their new family, the animal would have to remain in quarantine for about a month before being transferred over to the main exhibit.
Here is an example of an animal transfer. This one involved the Shedd Aquarium when it moved it's beluga whales and dolphins to the Mystic Aquarium from September 2008 to late April 2009.
A very huge misunderstanding regarding the tanks, is weather or not if any one cleans them. Believe it or not, trainers and scuba divers sometimes clean the tanks themselves to insure a healthy and suitable exhibit for the animals they care for. They do not rush in that process, they will scrub each side of the exhibits/stadium pool from top to bottom and it usually takes around 2-3 hours, just before the parks opens. The filters on the other hand are used to keep the tanks healthy and free from bacteria, and algae and is very important for the health of the animals. There by, the filters are also the animals' life-support systems.
What part of most marine parks that many extremists go after are the animal feeding pools were guests have the opportunity to get up close with whales and dolphins and feed them from there. Many extremists claim that the animals are overweight and are being teased by the food given to them. In reality, the animals are NOT teased and they are not fat neither. The animals receive the same amount amount of food from the guests as well as vitamins from their handlers.
At SeaWorld, guests are only allowed to touch and feed dolphins during certain times of the day, so that the animal care staff can monitor and observe the behaviors of all the dolphins in their care in case, there is an emergency in which an animal may be pregnant or is not feeling well. Guest are only allowed to give the dolphins a certain small amount of fish and can NOT give a certain type of fish to a different animal species that may live at a different feeding pool. The Dolphins are only moved out of the feeding pool depending on what the needs or wants of a certain animal like for example, if a dolphin has a human-like personality in which the animal prefers to interact with human guests weather if it is behind the glass or during a petting session, then they can be moved to Discovery Cove.
If that same dolphin enjoys performing for human guests during certain times of the day, then the animal is moved to the Whale and Dolphin Theater. However, if that dolphin is not feeling well or is pregnant, then the animal is moved to either a private medical pool, or is moved to the dolphin Nursery. At the feeding coves, educators and animal care staff are always available to answer questions and share information about the animals the guest are encountering during the feeding sessions and in addition, some guests(mainly adventure camp participants and VIP pass members) may be allowed to give the animals their favorite toys such as boomerangs, balls, and ice cubes, just to name a few of the enrichment the dolphins are given during their long day.
Many zoological marine parks and aquariums offer up close interaction programs where guests can get hands-on with whales, dolphins, seals, or sea lions. Before the interactions can begin, trainers educate the guests on the natural history, physiology, and behavior of these animals as well as conservation efforts these parks are doing to help these animals out in the wild. That session usually lasts for about 20-30 minutes. After that, guest can enter the water with the animals they will be encountering. Behaviors that the animals will perform with the guests may vary by different animal. They would help the trainers communicate with the animals through a number of hand signals. The programs may vary by park or aquarium. Policies may change regarding the interaction programs if a recent animal attack occurs. If guest violate any rules such as teaching an animal to do a behavior without the trainer's consent or attempt to tease or scare the animal in any nature, the that guest is removed.
They are strict around the animals and participants. Many extremist claim that people could get disease from contact with marine mammals during interaction programs. However, since the first marine mammal interaction programs were offered to public more than 20 years ago, there has not been one case of disease spread from human to animal. In fact, to prevent the spread of disease or illness from animal to person, guests can not have a cold, or any respiratory illness at the time of the interaction program and are encouraged to get a TB(tuberculosis)test to make sure that they would pass any illnesses on to the animals they would encounter.
One such idea that causes debates on marine mammals in captivity is the infant motility rate issue. It is true that sometimes baby animals do die in the care of man from mainly natural causes just like they would out in the wild. However, because most marine mammal species are large mammals, they can be very difficult to keep in zoological parks like elephants and large primates. An example of one mortality rate is the killer whale or orca. In the wild, about the chances of a newborn killer whale dying during its first year of life is a 50-60% chance. Researchers would report that about 4-6 calves would be born to a population of killer whales, but usually by the next year, only 1-3 animals would survive their first year of life in ocean. While for most wild marine mammal babies that die during their first year of life would of fall victim to predation, some can die from diseases and starvation. Even with the protection and guidance from their families, a newborn animal's chances of survival in the wild are only 25-35%. This would take a huge amount of effort and survival skills from both the babies and their peers in order for the little ones to make it through their first year of life.
In the care of man, however is a very different story. Due to the large amount of medical care they receive from their vets on a daily biases regardless of their health. Before birth, trainers monitor the pregnant mothers that are going into labor with their babies in case complications occur during the delivery of the pending offspring. Once when a new baby animal is born, the handlers continue to monitor their health and also watch closely for nursing and to see if the mother will accept her new baby. If the mother animal dose not accept her newborn and fails to nurse it, then the trainers will be able to report it to both veterinarians, and animal care staff members to take the baby in and hand raised him/her. Usually the survival of a newborn marine mammal in captivity may mainly vary by the medical history of one or both parents. If one or both parents suffered from pre-existing medical conditions at the time of baby animal's birth, then the chances of doing well shortly after birth are very low because animals born to allying parents tend to not only have weaker immune systems, but also be exposed to bacterial infections from the mother's milk(which is also caused by her weak immune system) and therefore, the animals die. This is why many zoological parks do not breed animals with histories of serious pre-existing medical conditions because they can pass on the genes for weak immune systems and a number of health disorders to their future offspring. For the newborns that do well, they are sometimes either put on medications, or are given vaccines and medical transplants that would help them stay alive. Despite that, more marine mammals is well cared for tend to survive their first year of life in the care of man then in the wild.