‘Orcaholics’ Remember the First Captive Orca

Written by on June 14, 2013 in Marine Life, Whales & Dolphins

Everybody knows Shamu, Flipper and even Willy, but have you ever heard of Moby Doll?

Orcas in Canadian waters.

Orcas in Canadian waters. Photo credit: RayMorris1 via photopin cc.

Moby doll (named before researchers knew he was a male) is the orca who changed how the world viewed marine mammals. Before he came around, our knowledge of whales was focused on how to hunt them. But when a group of people set out to kill an orca, everything changed.

They successfully harpooned an orca, but when they saw him wounded but still swimming, they couldn’t kill him. Instead, they named him. Still attached by the harpoon, they brought him to a makeshift enclosure where they watched him, fed him and interacted with him.

Was this change in attitude for the better?

On one hand, Moby Doll inspired people to learn more about orcas and other marine mammals which helped protect populations and put an end to commercial whaling. On the other hand, his capture made other people want to see orcas in aquariums which spawned the era of capturing marine mammals from the wild and placing them in captivity. In the beginning, none of those animals lived very long and even now marine mammals in captivity have much shorter lifespans than their wild relatives.

So was this change a positive one? You’ll have to watch the following video from CBC News and decide for yourself.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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