While home for the holidays, I happened to glance to the left of the door leading from my grandparents’ garage into their house, and I glimpsed a relic from my childhood. Hanging on a nail, coated with a thick layer of dust, hung a black and blue water bottle from my past life, and as I turned it around, the words Camp Sea World confirmed that I did, in fact, correctly identify it.
I can almost guarantee that I am the first person to touch that water bottle in more than a decade (isn’t that just like a grandparents’ garage?). But I’ve certainly walked past it dozens, if not hundreds, of times before. So I have to conclude that the reason I actually noticed it was because of discussions I had with my peers in December during our week-long course on marine mammal medicine.
I grew up in Orlando. My family visited Sea World a few times while I was growing up, but, more significantly, I spent multiple summer weeks embracing my budding love of animals at Camp Sea World. Thus, while everyone is arguing over the validity (…or lack thereof) of Blackfish, I can’t help but draw on my personal experience. Certainly, we tromped around in lines singing camp songs (In and out the air goes…the Dolphin Family) and escaped from the Florida heat by visiting the beluga whales, but we also toured their sea turtle rehab facility, learned about animal behavior by conducting a few harmless experiments on park guests, and watched The Lorax. In fact, Camp Sea World was the first (though admittedly, not the last) place that I was told, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
So while you can convince me that Sea World has made mistakes (don’t we all?), and you can also convince me that man-made enclosures will never give orcas the space and freedom of the ocean, I will not (would not, could not, with a fox) accept the premise that Sea World is an evil organization out to extort money from people at the expense of their animals. Someday not too far away, I will be a veterinarian. And in my time as a veterinarian, it is my intention to seek as many opportunities as I can in conservation medicine. While it probably isn’t accurate to say that was entirely Sea World’s doing, it is definitely fair to give them substantial credit.