Did you like Free Willy? Neither did I. In retrospect, the concept I agree with, but Orcinus orca, also known as the killer whale, is truly the stuff of nightmares. It’s the stuff of my regular nightmares.
It all started with watching the award-winning documentary Blackfish, on Netflix a few years ago. I’ve always enjoyed nature related documentaries, but this was not what I expected.
Essentially, there was a male orca named Tilikum that was captured near Reykjavík, Iceland. In his lifetime, he was responsible for two, possibly three human deaths.
I want people to know that the message behind Blackfish is something I whole heartedly agree with. These animals that have an extremely high level of emotional intelligence do not belong in tanks for our amusement. Sea World is a profligate organization that for years has suggested that these enormous carnivores are safe for humans to interact with. What?
I know everyone loves videos of wild animals forging connections with humans. I do too. There’s that famous video of the grown lion recognizing this man who helped raise him as a cub. It tugs at the heartstrings. That being said, interacting with that lion or any lion can never be 100% safe.
How about the lady who owned the chimp as a pet and because she refused to take him for a car ride, he ate her friend’s face? How about Tippi Hedren having the pet lion that mauled her daughter Melanie Griffith?
There are people in this world that have wild animals as “pets”, from pythons to hippopotamus. And you know what? That’s just irresponsible and ethically wrong. I could go on, but I want to get back to orcas.
After I saw Blackfish, I began to have recurring nightmares. A common one was being on a deflated floatation device of sorts, like a dingy, in the middle of a large tank of murky, dark water. Guess what was swimming around me menacingly? Can you guess? Orcas.
Another regular nightmare would include me going for a walk along an arctic cliff edge with hordes of orcas swimming in the ocean, a wrong step away.
A third one was swimming with my mom and brother in a clear Olympic sized pool and suddenly two orcas swim up and grab my mom by the foot to drag her down and drown her and I have to try to save her.
Far fetched though it may sound, that more or less happened to a senior trainer at Sea World. Granted this was a different whale in captivity, but if this trainer wasn’t an experienced diver that had the ability to stay calm and hold his breath for longer than a normal person, he would’ve been dead.
There’s a definite dichotomy with regards to how I feel about orcas. They absolutely terrify me more than spiders, snakes, sharks, etc. combined. At the same time, they fascinate me and I have the utmost respect for them. You think the Great White Shark or Giant Squid are apex predators? Not when they meet a killer whale. They hunt in pods and are so smart, they will knock a Great White on its back, which puts it in a catatonic state. Then they just casually eat its organs. No big deal.
Orcas are so intelligent, that they’ve even learned to communicate in a human “language”. They have strong individual personalities and the connection between mother and calf has also been proven to be extremely strong, so much so that the mother will cry if they’re separated. Guess who separates them? Sea World. No wonder these animals literally had a psychotic break and take it out on their captors.
This post is definitely pro Blackfish and anti Sea World. If you didn’t glean that, then I don’t know if you can read. The bigger motivation for this post is my incessant need to explain to people why they have a dominating presence in my subconscious. These animals are deserving of fear and respect. Please stop having them as pets. They aren’t pets.
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