“Life had been transformed by our affection for this little whale, [because… ] what we shared mattered” -Mike Parfit. Luna the orca has been separated from his pod ever since he was two. Through the years, this little orca has learned to cope not by joining another pod or learning to live in solitude, but by forming a miraculous bond with the citizens of Nootka Sound, British Columbia. As Luna gets older, he seems to be getting in more and more trouble by going out of his way for human affection, whether he is brushing up against a seaplane or getting too close for comfort to a boat’s propeller.
Many are wondering just what is best for this little whale. Although some may argue that Luna would benefit himself and his species if he were in captivity, Luna should be free to come and go from Nootka Sound as he pleases because he would have a better quality of life, he’d be both mentally and physically healthier, and the care that he needs could only be provided by his natural environment. An animal’s happiness is what makes their life worth living. So, it is important that they are healthy, both physically and mentally.
Sometimes, all they need to be happy is a stimulating environment, and that can be provided for Luna in the wild, not in the barren environments of a cement marine park tank. In the ocean, Luna has plenty to keep him busy, like hunting, swimming as long as far as he desires, and interacting with the local people. It would be inevitable that if Luna were taken to an aquarium, he would become incredibly bored. “Boredom is not a state of being that wild animals are used to experiencing.
In fact, without having something to do, or a form of stimuli the wild can provide, wild animals get frustrated and can act out in an aggressive manner,” (Mazzio 2014). There has been several cases where wild orcas have been taken into captivity, where they end up dramatically acting out, sometimes injuring or even killing their trainers. If he were taken into captivity, Luna too might end up without an outlet for his boredom and frustration which could lead to him to accidentally hurt one of his own caretakers.
Clearly, Luna’s mental health would be better in his home, because he would be at a lower risk of developing depression or behavioral issues unlike some captive killer whales. Not only would he be mentally healthier in the wild, but Luna’s physical health would also be better as well, which can be signaled by his upright fin, whereas, “all captive adult male orcas have collapsed dorsal fins, likely because they have no space in which to swim freely and are fed an unnatural diet of thawed dead fish,” (“8 Reasons Orcas Don’t Belong at SeaWorld”).
For Luna’s sake, he’d be much better off if he were guaranteed his healthy, happy life because he already has to deal with the confusing debate about whether or not people should be interacting with him or not. If Luna were to stay happy, it would be much less likely that he would get into trouble. In the ocean, his lifestyle would remain the same, and he would be able to continue on as he normally does, happily swimming from boat to boat. Owning or keeping wild animals is incredibly dangerous, and it poses risks to both the humans and the animals involved. Appropriate care for wild animals requires considerable expertise, specialized facilities, and lifelong dedication to the animals.
Their nutritional and social needs are demanding to meet and, in many cases, are unknown. They often grow to be larger, stronger, and more dangerous than owners expect or can manage. Wild animals also pose a danger to human health and safety through disease and parasites,” (“Should Wild Animals Be Kept as Pets? ”). If he were moved into a completely different and unfamiliar environment, Luna could possibly give diseases to humans around him, or he could even contract diseases himself.
Luna could also become malnourished or he could live in inhumane conditions, because the care that he needs can only be provided by a select few. Not only would Luna face several new risks if he were taken into captivity, but it would actually be illegal for Luna to be taken out of Nootka Sound. The benefits of Luna remaining in the wild are uncanny, but there also could be benefits if he were to be taken into captivity. It could be argued that if he were in captivity, not only Luna would benefit, but his entire species would as well.
Luna would be able to educate the public about wild killer whales, and he would be able to raise awareness about marine conservation. He would allow scientists to be able to safely study orcas, which would dramatically help their understanding of his species. In fact, “aaquarium research combined with studies from the wild has improved scientists’ understanding of the biology, ecology, and impacts of growing human populations and activities on the whales. They use this knowledge to better understand the biological needs of the mammals and the impact that our human life has on their environments and life.
Research such as hormone measurements of orcas in captivity have allowed scientists to discover that the gestation period is actually longer than previously believed and led the IWC to reduce Norway’s allowable hunted whale quota by 52 whales a year,” (Tierney 2010). However, while the rest of Luna’s kind potentially could benefit from research that could be done, Luna himself would be incredibly unhappy with a limited amount of space, an unstimulating environment, and high stress.
He, like many captive orcas, could “suffer physically as much as [he could] psychologically. Luna could end up] destroying [his] teeth by chewing on metal cage bars and [he could develop a] collapsed dorsal fin, a condition that rarely occurs in wild orcas,” (“Aquariums and Marine Parks”). Thus, Luna would be safer, happier, and healthier if he remained in his home: the wild. Luna the orca would ultimately be happier, healthier, and better taken care of if he were to be allowed to stay in the ocean and leave and return to Nootka Sound, rather than being taken to a marine park.
Luna’s physical health would be much better in the wild because he can get the fresh fish and exercise that he needs. He also would be able to remain in a stimulating environment, which would keep him out of trouble, so his mental health would be better as well. Luna would also be able to guarantee that he gets the care that he needs from his natural habitat. Hence, Luna would ultimately be able to live a better life if he were to stay in his home, the wild. Luna is a special case in the animal kingdom.
He challenged what we thought we knew about interspecies relationships, by befriending humans when he had lost hope for his own kind. Luna’s fate is so important because it determines how we treat intelligent species other than our own. As humans, we often forget that we can make a connection with someone or something from an entirely different world that is so close to our own. So should the rare opportunity, we need to seize it. We need to learn as much as we can about these experiences because we never know if we’ll get another chance to again.