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Smart, Social and Erratic in Captivity -

Stashed in: Whales!

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Orcas, definitely cool, but likely better off not in captivity.

That's true for many animals, isn't it?

It is, it would have sucked to have been an animal in a zoo in the 1800s, when most captured critters would have been confined to concrete cages. Fortunately, studying animals in their natural habitats and a growing realization of our own impact on the natural world and an increased sense of responsibility for that impact has led to better living conditions for most animals kept in zoos/aquariums nowadays. We care enough about making sure pandas breed that we have produced panda porn for them, which is just a little ridiculous if you stop to think about it. Since some animals, like tigers, are so rare in their natural habitats because being in the wild means they're essentially being hunted to extinction, keeping the species alive in captivity seems the best possible alternative. If my options are tigers in preserves or no tigers, I'm going to go with the option that keeps tigers around.

Maybe it's because land animals are a little bit easier for us to track and observe in the wild that researchers are aware of how they would behave in their natural environment, and are able to advocate changes to their settings in captivity to allow them to have happier lives. With large aquatic animals like dolphins, whales, and sharks, the entire planet's oceans are potentially their home range. No aquarium or aquatic park could ever compare to that, and it seems like we're reaching a tipping point in understanding how intelligent these creatures are that we can kind of reflect on the fact that performing unnatural behaviors for our entertainment may not be ideal. 

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