It’s obvious that something is wrong, or at least different, when you see an orca with a 6ft. dorsal fin bent all the way over. It’s also pretty well known, or so I thought, that this happens mainly with whales in captivity. However, SeaWorld is still trying to pass this on as a “Genetic” issue, and not a captivity issue.
The video below is an in-depth explanation, or list of excuses, for the dorsal fin collapse according to SeaWorld’s Education Department.
She goes into great lengths to explain that the dorsal fin does not have any bone or muscle, and the whales have no control over the bend. She goes on to explain that it is genetic, and Tili’s offspring also have collapsed dorsal fins. (They are all in captivity too) Other explanations she gave were that Tilikum’s dorsal fin has a smaller base, and that is a reason for the slump. She also says that it could be due to injury from play, stating that if it happens when the whales are young the dorsal fin continues to grow that way.
My personal favorite tidbit was that each whale’s fin is different, like people’s hair. Some are curly, some are straight. The misconception is that it happens because of where they live. That’s a stretch!
In the background, you can see a bored Tilikum floating at the surface with a bent dorsal fin.
I prefer to believe the opinion of the experts. In an interview by David Kirby, author of Death at SeaWorld, and filmed by Jeff Ventre, former whale trainer, Dr. Astrid van Ginneken gives her take on dorsal fin collapse. Dr. Ginneken has studied wild orcas as a part of Orca Survey since 1987 and has been co-principal investigator since 1994.
She says that less than 1% of wild orcas have dorsal fin collapse. Her 5 reasons for captive fin collapse are:
1. Pattern swimming – swimming mainly in one direction going in circles
2. Resting at the surface – gravity takes over
3. Warmer water temperatures
4. Lower hydration
5. Genetics with lack of exercise
In another report by Wende Alexandra Evans on Flaccid Fin Syndrome, or FFS, found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/119426027/Flaccid-Fin-Sydrome-by-Wende-Alexandra-Evans, out of 26 expert responses, 20 of them list captivity as the main reason for the flop. Other theories given were the fitness of the whales, injury, water pressure and temperature (both due to the lack of diving deep in captivity and heat breaking down collagen)
Here are a couple pictures by Jeff Ventre of other examples and explanations:
So, which description makes sense to you?