eli5: Are the animals at SeaWorld relatively happy/better off?

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I understand they do some conservation work, but I find it hard to believe all of those animals (they use to make money) are in the process of rehabilitation. It’s kind of depressing to see the penguins and birds just trapped in a small area. They also seem to over-anthropomorphize the dolphins and whales. Excuse my ignorance in these things.

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It’s not just rehab. A lot of these sort of places (zoos, aquariums, etc) keep animals that can’t survive in the wild.

Whether they were rescued, captive bred, or otherwise, releasing them may very well be a death sentence.

As for happiness, we can’t really know. Big animals, like whales, definitely would prefer a much larger habitat. Which is why there won’t be anymore whales at Sea World after these ones.

Wouldn’t you be happy if you had free Healthcare, free rent, free food and security?

Depends by better off.

A ship can never leave it’s harbor but then it wouldn’t be a ship.

They might live long lives but they’re not natural lives. We now know we should not keep orcas in pens. We know this because they start abusing themselves if they are held captive.

Penguins don’t self harm, apparently. We can assume they aren’t sad.

I think I’m a little more informed on this subject than the other commenters so far. There are rescue/rehab animals and bred-for-entertainment animals. I know there’s criticism on SeaWorld’s rescue program, but I’m not in a place to know.

The main subject of controversy are orcas and other dolphin species used in shows, and the answer is basically no—the complex social lives and rich environments they evolved to thrive in cannot be replicated in tanks no matter how many millions you invest. Here are some bullet points to sum up the big problems:

– Orcas have extremely close familial relationships. A pod structure is usually grandma (matriarch) her daughters, sons, and calves. SeaWorld’s orcas are often transported between theme parks in the US and sometimes traded with separate chains in other countries. [Here](https://www.thedodo.com/seaworld-separates-orcas-1057282183.html) is an article about one event of separation between mother and calf.

– No right to association goes both ways, and battles for dominance between females or bullying in the enclosed spaces have resulted in deaths and severe injury. Captive orcas tend to have very visible rake scars left by each other’s teeth.

– The environment is pathetic. Their pools are insanely expensive but nowhere near replicating the ocean. These are animals adapted to hunt and migrate constantly—neither of which they can do. [This article](https://www.thedodo.com/seaworld-tank-size-1282993451.html) has some pictures comparing tank size to parking lot size.

– Stereotypic behaviors—think of a dog on a chain that barks all day at nothing, or a bird that over-preens and plucks out their own feathers out of boredom or distress. Orcas in captivity display this by swimming in circles repeatedly day after day, floating inactive at the water’s surface, bashing heads into concrete, and chewing concrete.