The above photo is of Gudrun, an Icelandic female who lost her calf presumably after being told to go on the slide out during the later stages of her pregnancy.
It is common knowledge that a beached killer whale is a doomed killer whale. There are multiple reasons for this. One: They can’t get back in the water. Two: The weight of their bodies crushes their internal organs providing a slow, painful death. It is also common knowledge that there are whales out there called Transients, or Biggs whales that hunt other mammals and will tactfully beach themselves to get a seal if it is in the water. These whales are masters at this art and rarely over shoot their goals and get stranded; however they do not stay on the beach nearly long enough for their weight to have an impact on their organs. They get up there and get out whether they have the kill or not.
Now, let us discuss the very popular slide out (an unnatural behavior to Resident Orcas). Not only would these whales in particular (with the possible exception of Kshamenk who is a Biggs orca) ever beach themselves for any reason other than to die, they would definitely not do it for as long as they do in a show. The amount of time a whale will spend on the slideout varies, but it is always long enough for everyone to get a good picture and to gawk at their size. Sometimes the whales may even stay up there for the length of a speech. We know that the weight of a whale can crush their organs, but how long do they have to be on that stage before it really starts to do some damage? Not only that, but these whales perform every single day. It’s one thing for them to be on a stage out of water for 3 or so minutes, but to do it almost every day, sometimes several times a day, can start to raise questions on the effect it would have on the animal.
Of course it is very hard to tell if this does have an effect which is why this post is entirely speculation, but after reading Gudrun’s story and then looking at the statistics: http://orcapod.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Pregnancy_Stats it starts to make a person wonder. What is even more perplexing is that this hasn’t been thought of before or at least if it has then it hasn’t gone very far. Everyone knows that the slide out (for those who are close enough and those who look at pictures online) is the highlight of the orcas tricks. It’s amazing to see just how big they are and to be able to look in their eyes and see them looking back. So, this is definitely something that happens a lot every day for most whales. It has to at least have some serious consideration that this would have an overall effect on whales at some point, after so many and long beachings.
So, if this alone can effect a normal whale that typically slides out when involved in a show, then certainly it would have an effect on a pregnant mother especially in the more developed stages of the pregnancy. They have to sit up there without any support and pose for several minutes before being aloud back down in the water to relieve the strain they must be feeling. And it’s one thing to consider that it’s not only during the shows that these whales slide out. They also do it to be weighed and for practice before-hand. I do not know the specific details and which orca does what in a show. I don’t even know if marine parks have actually put a rule in place for pregnant whales and slide outs, but I think the overall effect may be worth looking into. I truly hope this isn’t the case, but it would make a lot more sense on why there are so many miscarriages and still births in captivity. The number is completely outrageous and very obviously a sign that something is wrong. Also keep in mind that the miscarriages and stillbirths could also, mostly, be attributed to the mothers stress of their captivity and probably many, many other stresses they feel about their situation. The stress factor is huge and I will admit probably the biggest reason for the unsuccessful births, but I can’t see how the slide out wouldn’t have an effect as well. Surely something so repetitive, even for just a couple of minutes, couldn’t go without an overall negative effect.
Again, this article is just speculation and I am more than open to thoughts and ideas and facts (if you have them) to prove one way or the other why my own thoughts are or are not correct. I would love the input. Please, remember to keep it civil when replying to this post. Rudeness will not be tolerated.