SAN DIEGO (CBSLA.com) — An orca whale being held in captivity at SeaWorld in San Diego is so depressed that she's unable to nurse her calf, according to two whale experts.
Former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove and marine biologist Ingrid Visser recently visited the park, along with the film crew for an upcoming orca documentary, "Superpod."
Visser said she's spent more than 20 years studying marine life.
"SeaWorld doesn't like me as a scientist. They don't like the fact that I'm seeing things in the wild that reflect badly on them, with the orca in captivity here," Visser said. "A lot of the people who have never seen an animal in the wild are taking the behaviors that they see completely out of context. There's no mistaking it, if you know what you're looking at, and it really is painful to watch."
She said the mother orca was acting out of sorts; she floated listlessly while staring at a concrete wall and
Despite the repeated nose-bumps the calf kept delivering to her belly - a sign to initiate the nursing process - the mama orca appears to ignore the calf, Visser said.
She pointed out that the mother has even developed a bruise on her stomach from the calf's repeated prompts to nurse.
"That's just because the calf is constantly trying to get food, so desperately hungry, so bored," Visser said. "It's a stereotypic behavior now."
The calf was unable to get the mother in a position where it could nurse.
Hargrove says the mother is clearly too depressed to feed her offspring.
He later explained why he chose to leave SeaWorld and help with this documentary.
"I had incredible guilt about abandoning those whales," Hargrove said. "We have no right to rob them of their life, and put them in these tanks, and disguise it as conservation when all it is is entertainment."
The video has been viewed more than 39,000 times on YouTube.
for more features.