There is one more reason for people to wish for no animal to live in captivity. A new study was the only in-depth one that investigated the oral health of orcas minutely. One of the main conclusions was that these magnificent marine mammals suffer from extensive dental problems when they are in captivity. This research signaled another alarming concern for the health and welfare for such a species.
Researchers Examined the Oral Health of 29 Captive Orcas
Orca or the killer whale is the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family. It is also known as a teethed whale since it is a carnivorous predator. In fact, its denture is pivotal for their wellbeing. Its set of 48 teeth is robust and can quickly hunt down other mammals once the powerful jaws clench around the victim.
However, once they become prisoners of marine mammal parks, their condition starts decaying. A new team of researchers discovered that the teeth orcas rely so much on are part of this degradation as well. Team leaders New Zealand orca expert Dr. Ingrid Visser and Dr. Carolina Loch at Otago University’s Faculty of Dentistry claimed that all participating animals in the study had dental problems.
The new study investigated oral health conditions of 29 orcas. All specimens are under the ownership of one company. A part of them lives in the United States while the others are located in Spain.
“Every whale had some form of damage to its teeth.”
Killer Whales Often Chew on The Surface of Tanks Which Leads to Dental Problems
One of the main findings was that 65% of the animals developed moderate to high tooth wear located in their lower jaws. This type of health issue appears in marine mammals when they chew on the steel and concrete of which their tanks are made.
Furthermore, the study indicates that around 61% of the captive killer whales had at some point in their lives at least intervention from dentists. This is how they got their teeth drilled. This procedure has the purpose of extracting the soft tissue inside. However, animals don’t receive fillings s humans do.
Therefore, orcas need special care after such procedures. Even though they receive proper treatment, the animals still have increased chances of mortality due to the damages to their teeth.
Therefore, Dr. Visser and her colleagues used their findings to support the end of captivity for orcas. Confining wild animals within a tank comes with dire and even fatal consequences.
Image source: 1