Legendary primatologist and animal advocate Jane Goodall has weighed in on the SeaWorld controversy, adding to a growing chorus of those who believe the marine park giant should be closed and its captive species retired to sanctuaries. 

In an interview with the Huffington Post, the 81-year-old Goodall said the method of confinement for SeaWorld's dolphins and whales is cruel and unusual punishment due to the nature of how the species communicate. "When they are contained in these tanks ... that is acoustical hell,” she said. "The sounds bounce back from the walls of the tank."

One need only look at the small tank enclosure for Lolita, a 22-foot-long orca housed in an awful 60-by-80-foot tank at the Miami Seaquarium, to understand the kind of hell Goodall is talking about. SeaWorld's tanks, while larger, are a drop in the bucket compared to what an off-shore ocean sanctuary might provide. Still, the company insists there's nothing to worry about.

"Jane Goodall is a respected scientist and advocate for the world’s primates, but we couldn’t disagree more with her on this," Becca Bides, a SeaWorld spokeswoman, said in a statement. "Zoos and marine mammal parks like SeaWorld allow people to experience animals in a way that is inspiring and educational." 


Photo: Michael Welsing/flickr

Bides added that SeaWorld works with experts in bioacoustics to keep underwater noise levels "quieter than the ambient ocean." How this prevents whales and dolphins from going mad from their own sounds bouncing around them is beyond me, but then again, this is coming from a company that believes an "ocean sanctuary is not inherently better" than a concrete holding tank.

Goodall adds that she hopes the awareness generated by documentaries like "Blackfish" will lead to more understanding of just how incredible these animals are. 

"It's not only that they're really big, highly intelligent and social animals so that the capture and confinement in itself is cruel," she said, but also that "they have emotions like ours."

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Jane Goodall wants SeaWorld shut down
Animal advocate Goodall says the marine park's holding tanks for orcas and dolphins creates an 'acoustical hell' that is cruel and harmful.