SAN DIEGO — A small group of animal rights activists protested outside SeaWorld San Diego Monday afternoon to call on the park to free its whales and dolphins.
The protesters held up signs along the sidewalks along Sea World Drive and Sea World Way to urge the park to release the largest animals that are in their captivity to seaside sanctuaries, as well as dissuade other San Diegans from purchasing a ticket to the theme park.
“Even though it’s Labor Day and most people have today off, there are no holidays for any of the animals at SeaWorld,” one of the protestors, Ellen Ericksen, told FOX 5. “The eight orcas that are held in captivity here never get a day off.”
According to organizers of the protest, more than 40 orca whales and over 500 other dolphins have died in SeaWorld’s facilities — many of whom reportedly fell short of their natural life expectancy due to complications with captivity.
They say one of the current whales at the park, Corky, is an exemplar of the quality of life for these animals while in SeaWorld’s facilities.
Corky is the oldest whale in the theme park and has been in captivity for about 54 years. After being captured off the coast of British Columbia in 1969, she first lived in a tank at a now-defunct facility in Southern California for about 17 years before she was moved to SeaWorld.
According to the activists, Corky has given birth to seven babies throughout her life, however, none lived longer than 47 days. Because of this, they say she spent a lot of time close with another young orca that she shared a tank with at the park.
The young orca’s mother later attacked Corky — likely out of jealousy, the activists say — breaking her jaw and severing arteries in her head. The orca’s mother later died.
For the last 25 years, activists have been pushing to relocate Corky to a proposed 40-acre sanctuary nearby her birthplace in British Columbia where her original family, known as the “A5 pod,” still reside. SeaWorld has resisted the plan, saying the move would be risky for her health.
FOX 5 reached out to SeaWorld for comment regarding today’s demonstration, but had not heard back as of 5 p.m. Monday.
This comes about two weeks after the death of another whale, Lolita, who lived in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium for over half a century. Similarly to Corky, animal rights activists had been fighting to have Lolita released from her tank for years, but were ultimately unsuccessful.
Lolita’s passing has prompted a resurgence in those calling for the release of other long-held orca whales at theme parks and other aquariums like Corky.