i dont know how well this will work but

im curious about the makeup of people involved in whale things on tumblr so here’s a little informal poll

put an “X”  under the category you identify with



oh and here’s a smiling false killer whale to represent my thanks 


What is shaping? 

Shaping is a form of conditioning using successive approximations. It is the main method used by marine mammal trainers to teach the animals how to do anything from a flip in a show to presenting their flukes for a blood draw.

Basically, shaping is when the trainer rewards small baby steps that lead up to a big behavior. In the above gifs Kohana, a young female orca, learns to perform a hula with a trainer (This is not a currently practiced behavior. This footage was taken in Seaworld orlando prior to waterwork being banned). In the first gif, Kohana is given the signal to perform a normal hula (spin) which she likely learned from copying her mother (on her left). Upon her completion of the spin, the trainer blows a whistle telling her she did the right thing. It’s clear that Kohana has the normal hula down, so the trainer takes it to the next level, she enters the water and another trainer on stage asks for a hula again. Kohana completes the behavior perfectly with the trainer in the water and the whistle is blown. Now, in the third gif, the trainer takes a hold of Kohana’s pectoral flippers and both the trainer on stage and the trainer in the water signal for a hula. At first Kohana appears not to understand, but then she moves as if to start rotating and the trainer gives her what looks like a slap. This is a tactile bridge that does the exact same thing as a whistle. In the fourth gif, you can see Kohana is heavily rewarded with tactile reinforcement for simply having started to rotate with a trainer holding her pecs. By the fith gif, Kohana is on her way to completing the behavior, though her movements are choppy, she gets the idea of what she is supposed to do. She is bridged and, as you can see in the sixth gif, she is heavily rewarded for her progress. 

Note, no form of punishment was used in this training session. In reputable facilities, no form of punishment is ever used. All training sessions are based entirely upon rewarding the animal for desired behaviors. In the full length video you can see Kohana was only rewarded a couple handfuls of fish in all. This is not a meal for a whale but more like a treat. Kohana would have been fed whether or not she participated in that training session and it is very likely she knew that. From previous experience, she probably also knew that she wasn’t going to be fed anything substantial. Shaping, and all other forms of training sessions, are meant to be fun experiences for the animals. They are meant to enjoy the social interactions with their trainers, the mental/ physical stimulation and the multitude of challenges each session presents. Judging by the animal’s willing participation when they know food will rarely be involved, it is logical to assume they do indeed find pleasure in it. 

For more on shaping [x]

For another example of shaping (skip to 1:04) [x]


Tilikum and Trua are a grand-father and grand-calf pairing at Seaworld Orlando who are practically inseparable.  Tilikum, a 33-year-old male who was captured in Icelandic waters, is well known internationally for his involvement in the deaths of three people. Many accredit his aggression towards humans to his first 9 years in captivity, which were spent at substandard parks. 

Tilikum arrived at Seaworld in 1992 and soon after his arrival it was noted that he was harassed by the park’s matriarch Katina if she had access to him. Thus the large bull was often kept separate from the rest of Orlando’s pod. That is not to say, however, that he lived in complete isolation and through Tilikum’s 25 years at the park, some notable companions of his have been Gudrun, her calf Taima and another female named Takara. While these whales acted as pod members for Tilikum, they did little to get the 12,000 lbs bull up and moving. Fortunately in 2005 Takara bore her second calf, a bouncing baby boy named Trua. It was visible early on that Trua was a particularly vivacious, interactive little whale as he spent a good amount of time interacting with guests while still an infant. In 2010 after the tragic death of Tilly’s main companion Taima, he started spending a lot of time with his grand-calf. Incredibly, the two got a long better than anyone had hoped. Not only did the pair seem to enjoy spending their days together, Trua was able to succeed in engaging the old bull in active play! 

Today the pair are usually spotted in A-pool or G-pool. As Trua is only 9-years-old, he is still developing and seems to be learning a lot from his grand-father. In fact, Trua can often be seen trying his best to imitate Tilikum. Mimicry is an important and natural part of an orca’s development and while wild orcas teach their younger pod-members hunting techniques, Tilikum teaches Trua various behaviors like fluke waves and pec slaps. Another way the boys like to spend their time when not interacting with trainers is through playing with EED’s. The two whales seem to have a particular affinity for long, rope-like toys and a game they invented which resembles keep-away. 

Rumors have spread recently that the park’s only other male, Makaio, will be moved in with the two bulls as he gets older. This makes sense as most of Makaio’s current companions are related to him. In the next couple years we should expect to see Makaio’s introduction to the two bulls as the three form a sort of “bachelor pod” that widens the whales’ current social circles.  

videos of Tilikum and Trua: [x] [x] [x] [x] [x]

photo credits to CetusCetus and Kyrahaff 

More on Tilikum

More on Trua 

anonymous asked:

While I applaud the effort to better inform folks on orca culture, I gotta say...I'm not entirely sure how someone can support seaWorld. Orcas aren't goldfish. Having two marine biologist parents, I cant agree and never have with captive whales.

Thank you and first off, let me tell you how jealous of you I am because your parents are marine biologists. I can only imagine that your childhood was the bomb diggity. 

Well I support seaworld for a number of reasons, the primary of which is the great potential they have to educate and inspire the public. I also have not seen evidence that suggests cetaceans suffer to a greater degree in captivity than in the wild. As for the company itself, I’m sure it’s the CEO’s you don’t support but remember that the majority of Seaworld is made up of people who want to dedicate their lives to animals and the environment. That’s the kind of passion I get behind. Of course there’s also their rescue and rehab, the joy they bring to many and the thousands they employ. 

No orcas are not goldfish, but they aren’t people either. Orcas are a species of animal that have been separated from us for millions of years, their brains and lives are quite different from our own and thus we can’t assume that they have the same arbitrary and romantic notions we do. To put it simply, just because we feel orcas live undignified lives in captivity does not mean orcas even have an understanding of what dignity is.

 If you’d like to learn more about my opinion feel free to send me another ask. I am a big supporter of discussion and understanding between the two sides!