How Long Do Wild Orcas Live? Here’s One That’s 103 Years Old!

How Long Do Wild Orcas Live? Here’s One That’s 103 Years Old!

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Since the documentary Blackfish came out, SeaWorld’s been on the offensive. If you watch Hulu, you’ve probably seen SeaWorld’s ad about a million times. If you’re a Netflix person, here’s one of the ads I’m talking about:

One of the claims in the ad is that SeaWorld’s whales live just as long as whales in the wild. SeaWorld has also claimed that we don’t know how long wild whales live. SeaWorld has five whales over 30, and one nearing the age of 50, and they suggest the average lifespan is between 30 and 50 years, depending on the sex of the animal.

As it turns out, this might not be true. A wild orca named Granny (or J2 if you want to be formal) has been spotted off the coast of British Columbia in Canada that’s 103 years old. According to that article and other sources, the average lifespan for a orca appears to be 60 to 80 years.

In contrast, the average age of death of SeaWorld’s orcas is 12 for females and 16 for males. In fact, 92 percent of all SeaWorld’s orcas over the life of the park have died. SeaWorld was founded in 1964, 51 years ago. While it would be very strange if there were no deaths at SeaWorld — accidents and illness happen, after all — if the lifespan for an orca usually at least 60 years, 92 percent is awfully high.

Granny, at 103, is obviously an outlier. However, it’s safe to say that even the world’s oldest orca is probably not going to live three times as long as normal if SeaWorld’s telling the truth. Along with other practices that aren’t good for the health of the animals, Granny is a good reminder why we shouldn’t allow companies to hold orcas in captivity.

(featured image via Mike Charest/Flickr)

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