The Awesome Consequences of #SeaWorld’s Announcement to End Orca Breeding

Today Sea World announced it will no longer breed orcas.

This announcement means that not one more orca will be born at Sea World never to know what it’s own natural habitat is like.  No orca will ever be born there to spend it’s life in a tank, unable to explore the vast ocean, unable to dive deeply, unable to use it’s sonar and devoid of the family connections that are so important to them in the wild.

This means we will no longer be using breeding programs as an excuse to not protect our wildlife, as a backup for worst case scenarios of extinction.  More attention can be turned to saving our wild populations and ensuring that the ocean is healthy and safe place for them to live.

This means that people will be forced to realize their hour of entertainment from animals at entertainment venues comes at a cost, that just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

This announcement means that Tilikum’s suffering meant something.  It helped change the world and no matter how hard it is to watch what became of his life, there is some solace in the fact that his life has had such a great impact.

This announcement means that things can change, that people can raise their voices and have an impact.  Each tweet, every letter, every protest, each legislative endeavor, they made a difference.  I never thought this day would come and neither did many who still lived in hope and raised their voices.  Now I know, those voices matter, every word that is spoken with the hopes of making our world more humane, of making our world a better place for all to live has the potential to effect change.

This announcement means that the other aquariums that continue to breed or capture wild orcas need to stop and take note.  If Sea World can change, you have no excuse.  It is time now to stop this practice worldwide.  

This announcement means that the travel industry should also take note.  It is no longer acceptable to promote or contribute to any establishment or company that exploits animals for entertainment purposes.  The world will not have it any longer.  It is time to change.

The announcement means that there is hope.  We have made one huge change happen, but more needs to be done.  Please, all those who created this change, continue to fight for those who have no voices.  I personally will be concentrating on getting word out about Lolita, an orca who is living in the smallest tank in North America devoid of any contact from other orca, who has a chance to return to her native waters and possibly one day be reunited with her family.  I am more hopeful then ever that this can really happen and strangely, I have Sea World to thank for this.  Thank you Sea World. Thank you Tilikum.  Thank you Blackfish. Thank you to the California Coastal Commission.

Thank you to every person who didn’t stop speaking out, allowing themselves to witness something that hurt their hearts and hoping against hope for a day like today when we could all say there will never be another orca born at Sea World.  

An open letter to Tilikum

Note: Ethan Wolf’s (Sea Shepherd) open letter to Tilikum compelled me to write my own.  Thank you Ethan for the beautiful words. It is impossible to stay silent after reading them.

Dear Tilikum,

You are dying.  Your beautiful soul is preparing to leave this world and I want you to know, that your life has meant something to me.

I first saw you in  Blackfish.  Your story shocked me.  I could not understand how people could treat you like a plaything. Watching something so powerful and intelligent suffer at the hands of humans was so disturbing that all I could think of was how to change it.  I never figured that out, and obviously neither have all who have loved you from afar, but we still fight and will fight even harder in your memory when you are gone. I am so very sorry that you have had to live a life confined to tanks. If I had the power to give you the tiniest taste of freedom in your last days, I would.  How I wish I had that power.

People say that you will be better off dead, that you will be released from your suffering.  I can not think that is true.  Everything in me screams no at this statement.  It should never have come to this.  You have been a victim of the most outrageous ignorance and greed.  It makes me ashamed that we have allowed this to happen.

You stand in such stark contrast to those who have imprisoned you.  While they victimized you, you strove to live, devoid of everything natural to your species way of life, you fought for the will to keep going and you did.  You are a hero.  They…do not deserve our words.

I can not imagine the restraint you have had to show throughout your life – how easily you could have hurt more people and chose not to. I can not imagine what it did to your soul when you did hurt people, you who are one of a species who has never killed people in the wild.

This should not have been your fate but even after pleas from around the world to retire you to a sea sanctuary so that you could feel real waves against your skin, so that you could at last relive the life that orcas are born to live, Sea World chose to continue to exploit you, compassionless and so gravely underestimating the public’s ability to see the cruelty inherent in their actions.  You, now on the brink of death, we failed you.  I am so sorry. There are no words to express how sorry I am.

I want you to know that I see more then your suffering, in you I see the beauty of life, the beauty of all that should be wild and free.  You have taught me how to stand up for those without voices.  You have shown me what true compassion is and you have opened up the eyes of so many people who never knew that so many sentient beings are suffering at our hands.  We will learn the lessons you are meant to teach us and because of them we will build a better world.

I promise you, we will change this.  So many people will fight, your name always close to their lips.  We will never be able to make up for the life that was stolen from you, but we will use our sorrow to help those still in captivity and those beings who suffer at our hands,like in Taiji and in the Faroe Islands.

I hope when your heart beats it’s last beats that you feel us near you, surrounding you with comfort and love.  Your life means more then you can ever know.  Our tears are a testament for that.  Please forgive us for what we have done.  I dream of your freedom, today and always.


For those reading this, please do not support tourist activities that exploit animals for entertainment purposes.  We are better then that and these animals, they do not deserve the lives they are forced to live for the few minutes of ‘fun’ we gain from them.

Related Posts

An Open Letter to the U.S. Travel Association – Please Stop Supporting Unethical Entertainment

44 Reasons to Free Lolita – 1 For Every Year She Has Been Held Captive in North America’s Smallest Orca Tank

An Open Letter to the U.S. Travel Association – Please Stop Supporting Unethical Entertainment #IPW15

Dear U.S. Travel Association,
I am a travel blogger & a travel lover. I am writing this to ask you to reconsider holding your IPW party on 6/1 at Sea World.

Not long ago I watched Blackfish and the Cove. These two movies opened my eyes to the fact that all entertainment is not ethical and it also opened my eyes to the enormous responsibility people in the travel industry have to not support or recommend travel experiences that in any way diminish the lives of people or animals.

It is my belief that Sea World does both of these things and by holding your event there you are supporting the continuation of their cruelty. I can point to legal cases against them for discrimination and fines for pollution of Mission Bay as two things that stand out for me, but what is even closer to my heart is the continued breeding of Orcas for lives of captivity and how acceptance of practices that treat animals as our playthings create situations like what is happening in Taiji, Japan.

For one second think of an Orca. What words come to mind? Majestic? Wild? Amazing? Free? Or do you see them as Sea World would want us to? Caged? Dominated? Angry? Drugged?

To me they are awe inspiring. Orcas are highly intelligent animals that form life long family bonds. In captivity they are often separated from their children and they are forced to breed unnaturally often. In the wild they can dive over 1,000 feet down, Sea Worlds deepest tank is only 40 feet deep. In the wild they have never killed a person. In captivity Orcas have attacked humans many times and sadly have killed a number of people.

We do not know what we take away from them when we take away their oceans. We do not know the harm we do to all of us when we show them a lack of basic kindness.

I believe that this issue is one about all of humanity. It is about how we choose to treat one another and how we teach our children to respect what is wild and to honor the freedom of others.We are creating a legacy, don’t we want it to be one we are proud of?

US Travel’s support of Sea World is supporting unnecessary cruelty, lives lost to glass cages, an absolute lack of respect for nature and a failure for the human race. What people will witness when they attend your party is creatures who show more compassion to us then we show to them. It is educational but not in the way Sea World claims it to be. It educates us about human greed and the lengths we will go to for money.

It is a place that is not even close to celebratory. It is a place that should inspire great sadness. The travel industry has got to start taking a stand against businesses that profit off of the misery of others. We should educate people, offer alternatives, be a force for good. We must look past the profit and the pride, see our failings and look forward to a future where no one is allowed to suffer for our entertainment.

I hope that something I have said today touches you in some way. That you might reconsider holding your party at Sea World and instead become a voice for the voiceless Orcas and countless dolphins around the world that spend their lives in unnatural environments. We pay our money and watch them for a short moment, but we must remember, unlike us, they do not have the privilege to leave, that long after we have left, they are still there, swimming in circles perhaps dreaming of the sound of waves. We do not know what we take when we steal their oceans from them.

Thank you for your consideration.

44 Reasons to #FreeLolita -1 For Every Year She Has Been Held Captive in North America’s Smallest Orca Tank

In the Miami Seaquarium lives an Orca name Lolita.  Once upon a time she swam free in Puget Sound, Washington.  She was captured and sold to Miami Seaquarium and has been there ever since. This August will be her 44th year in captivity.  She is living in the smallest Orca tank in North America with no other Orca for company.  This is enough.  This is enough to say enough.

But there is more.  Lolita’s pod still exists.  There is a well thought out release plan that would at the very least allow her to return to her birth waters and could progress to her eventually rejoining the pod.  But how can we make this happen and why.

As travelers we make choices about what we support by where we go.  When we buy tickets to establishments, we are basically voting with our dollars.  I have put together this list of 44 reasons why Lolita should be freed.  I hope that if they speak to you, that you will support the movement to free Lolita, tweet and share messages to bring attention to Lolita’s plight and that you will not buy a ticket to the Miami Seaquarium or any other establishment, including Sea World that supports the captivity of Orcas.

After the list are a number of action steps that you can do to start helping today.

44 Reasons to #FreeLolita

  1. It is wrong to keep Orcas in captivity
  2. Lolita lives her life in the smallest tank in North America. Her tank is as deep as she is long. She cannot dive. Its 20′ at its deepest point.
  3. There is no tank large enough.
  4. Her probable mother is still alive (select l-pod – she is l-25 Ocean Sun) & there is a possibility they could be reunited
  5. She has a beautiful spirit even after all these years of captivity
  6. She was kidnapped from Puget Sound Washington
  7. She is not anyone’s property
  8. In the wild orcas spend their entire lives with their mother and family (sometimes even great grandmothers) Captivity has stolen that bond from Lolita.
  9. She still recognizes her families calls – when Lolita was played a recording of her family’s calls she returned the distinct dialect of her family’s calls
  10. It’s morally wrong to hold an Orca captive
  11. Lolita has no protection from sun or tropical storms which violates Section 3.103(3)(b) of the Animal Welfare Act.
  12. A well thought out plan has been made for her return to  the waters of her birth
  13. Lolita is the only remaining survivor of the 40+ members of her community who were captured in Puget Sound. She can not die without ever knowing the feel of the Ocean again.
  14. Humans can ‘appreciate’ Orcas (more) in the wild.  We do not need to see them in cages.
  15. To make matters worse, Orcas in captivity typically die earlier then Orcas in the wild
  16. Captivity creates dangerous situations that do not occur in the wild
  17. Capturing wild Orcas is wrong.  Lolita was wild when captured and by keeping her in captivity we are basically giving our stamp of approval on this initial act.
  18. Lolita has been without any other Orca for over 30 years since her tank mate Hugo died after repeatedly smashing his head into the wall
  19. Exploiting another being for your own profit is unacceptable.
  20. In the wild orcas swim nearly 100 miles per day -In a typical tank Orcas would have to swim over 1400 laps a day and Lolita’s tank is not even typical.
  21. Lolita’s pod is protected under the endangered species actshouldn’t Lolita be? and now Lolita is also – why isn’t she truly protected from “harm and harassment”?
  22. Lolita is a sentient and sapient
  23. We should protect what is wild
  24. She is a “highly vocal and complex communicators are forced to live in a low-sensory environment, which is unable to fully meet the needs of …” her “…physical and emotional worlds.” (Jane Godall – speaking about captive Beluga’s but pertinent here)
  25. Lolita has a right to freedom
  26. She will be happier.
  27. Orcas have a culture
  28. Orcas respect us – even in captivity they show great restraint and in the wild they have shown great curiosity.  Shouldn’t we respect them?
  29. We do not learn about Orca’s natural behaviors when they are held captive only their imprisoned ones – it’s a type of mis-education.
  30. She is unable to act on her own behalf.
  31. Captive Orcas show similar behavioral patterns to captive humans  What looks like cooperation is not always that simple.
  32. The Miami Seaquarium receives an annual license to operate despite Animal Welfare Act violations. A lawsuit against the USDA for issuing the license to an unlawful facility was dismissed on the procedural grounds that the inspectors have the discretion to ignore the regulations.  Our laws must mean something.
  33. Lolita was born free.
  34. “There is no significant risk to Lolita in any stage of Orca Network’s proposal for Lolita’s retirement in her native waters.”
  35. Hundreds of thousands of people many different people from all over the world want this to happen.
  36. Lolita’s pool does not meet the perimeter fence requirements to keep animals and unauthorized people out, nor does it protect her from abuse and harassment by the public. (Sections 3.103(3)(c) and 3.101(2))
  37. “Remaining in captivity is likely to lead to real harm to Lolita”
  38. Lolita’s tank is 13 feet shorter than is required by the Animal Welfare Act (Section 3.104).
  39. It’s possible we could learn more about about Orcas communication patterns if Lolita is released & communicates with her pod
  40. She has given so much of her life to us. We owe her this.
  41. She is a nearly ideal match to the Navy criteria of attributes for a candidate for a reintroduction program.
  42. Lolitas’ Chinook name (prior to being captured) was Tokitae  meaning nice day, pretty colors – freedom would let her understand the meaning of those words.
  43. It’s a beautiful dream
  44. Wouldn’t you want someone to help you?

How You Can Help Lolita NOW

  1. Tweet for Lolita & share
  2. Learn more about Lolita’s plight
  3. Don’t buy a ticket to the Miami Seaquarium or any establishment that supports Orca captivity like SeaWorld
  4. Write a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service asking them to reconsider Lolita’s captivity at Miami Seaquarium. You can find the contact details and a sample letter here
  5. Send a letter to the owners of the seaquarium and ask them to release Lolita. Either post a letter to :Fernando Eiroa
    Palace Entertainment
    4590 MacArthur Blvd., Suite 400
    Newport Beach, CA 92660Or send an email to
  6. Send Letters to USDA & APHIS:Send a message to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). These U.S. regulatory agencies have oversight of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) which Miami Seaquarium is violating. Pre-written letters can be sent by visiting the Orca Network’s page “How to Fight for Lolita’s Retirement”.

Steps 4, 5 & 6 found in this wonderful article

Has Traveling Ever Made You Cry?

Travel Truths is an ongoing question series for travel lovers. I ask and answer a travel related question and invite you to answer the question on your blog or on in the comments below. Travel is more then just destinations and experiences, it is a metaphor for life, a state of being, something the heart longs for. Join me as we explore the depths of our relationships with exploration and travel.

Has Travel Ever Made You Cry?

One of the amazing things about travel is that it opens you up.  Things touch you, you notice little things, you are taken out of your comfort zone, sometimes it makes it easier to be who you truly are and feel what you truly feel without all the constraints of what is familiar around you.  We all know that travel makes you smile, has it ever made you cry?

My Answer:

I hate crying in public.  I even hide my tears in the darkness of a movie theater, but when I cried in France I thought I was safe, I thought no one had seen me.  I was standing alone in Van Gogh’s room at the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy and I was just overwhelmed.  Van Gogh had stood where I was standing, he had been there, lived there, painted there.  The view from his window was obstructed with bars which seemed like a tangible reminder of his suffering.  The halls I had walked through he had wandered through.  Suddenly everything I had learned in my art history classes became very real. I don’t know how to explain it, but it would probably be like the equivalent of a music fan getting to touch the keys of a piano that Beethovan played.  All my appreciation welled up and the braniac side of me subsided.  I understood more than I had before that moment, I understood his art in a deeper way that would never have happened if I had not seen where he had lived.  Read More

Iran, Women, & The Freedom to Travel

L'Oiseau bleu Horikiri_29
There are things I just didn’t know about the world we live in.  I didn’t know that glaciers could be so beautifully blue until I visited Alaska and saw them breaking and splashing into the ocean.  I didn’t know that cave paintings were meant to come alive in flame until I walked through a cave in France and saw the way the curves and crevices of the cave walls created dimension and the illusion of movement.  I didn’t know how terrifying, yet exhilarating it was to walk through a rainforest alone wondering what was making those noises high up in the trees. Read More

Isabella Bird – The Greatest Traveler You’ve Never Heard Of

I have no difficulty in making up my mind when an escape from civilization is possible.

I hope I’m wrong.  I hope you have heard of Isabella Bird.  But if you are like I was until yesterday, you haven’t heard of this amazing women who traveled over 800 miles in the Rocky Mountains, climbed Mauna Loa, crossed Tibet, wrote over a dozen books & was the first women to be inducted into the Royal Geographical Society.

She did all of this in the 1800’s, a time when true adventure awaited most travelers, a time where there was no internet to help prepare you, where travel necessitated being brave and being daring. Read More

5 Amazing Travel Themed Movies You Can Watch Right Now

There are so many great travel themed films out there, but what if you want to watch one NOW? Here are 5 amazing travel themed movies that you can rent on Amazon and watch instantly.

Have a favorite travel themed movie?
Tell us about it in the comments below!

1. The Beach


Some people love it, some people hate it, I happen to be in the love it camp. In The Beach, Leonardo Dicaprio stars as a young American backpacking in Asia searching for his own version of paradise. Visually stunning, this movie takes place in Thailand but don’t let the beautiful views fool you, there is a lot more to this movie than meets the eye.

By the way, the beach in the film actually exists, but from all accounts it is now a tourist attraction so a better bet may be to visit Khao Yai National Park where the waterfall scene was filmed.

Watch The Beach Now

2. L’Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)


L’Auberge Espagnole is like watching hostel life on the big screen (only in an apartment). The story centers around a group of students, all from different countries, who have come to Barcelona to study abroad and end up in the same apartment.

If you ever studied abroad or wished you had, check this movie out for a little taste of being a stranger in a strange land (with lots of new friends).

Watch L’Auberge Espagnole Now

Read More