By: Philipp J. Kroiß
It is a well-known topic of the animal rights industry: the teeth of orcas. Again and again, this is brought up and it exploits the ignorance of many trusting animal lovers to repeat already refuted accusations.
Orca teeth in the wildness
The teeth of killer whales are different from human teeth – not only in size and shape. The teeth of orcas are quite easy to wear down due to their consistency. Orcas, which feed on many sharks in nature, even erode the teeth to the edge of the gums and then often die miserably. But orcas, which are eating other type of fish, show in their natural habitat significant wear down the teeth as you can see in captivity.
Why are the teeth wear out? Orcas have no hands. They also do not touch with their flippers, because they have other tasks than human hands, although they are anatomically in a similar position. Orcas feel their environment with the mouth. Tongue and teeth are necessary for exploring the environment. These were comparatively the soft teeth out. If you go to museums where orca skeletons are shown and the teeth are in their original state, you will find scuffed, missing and / or worn-out teeth. Anyone visiting the “reading room” of the Museum Naturalis in Leiden will see such an orca skeleton. The North Sea Museum Bremerhaven has given to the Sugar Museum in Berlin a carcass-eaten orca tooth. Quite famous is the skeleton of Old Tom, where you even see this very clearly.
Anyone who has the opportunity to look at their teeth during the necropsy of stranded animals will be able to see that it is difficult to find a perfect row of teeth. Particularly impressive are the photos from A. Kitchener. The photos in the National Museum Scotland show jaws from stranded animals. Under the registration number NMS.Z.2015.142.78 you can find a sub-adult male, which has a lack of seven teeth in the left lower jaw and three teeth in the right lower jaw and with very good visible black holes. In the upper jaw missing a total of 9 teeth and some are heavily abraded. A female (NMS.Z.2016.118) had no teeth in the upper jaw at all – quite as if there had never been any, and the rest was clearly rubbed off. These are just two examples of many.
Incidentally, such rows of teeth are not only a problem of orcas in the natural habitat – they are also found in other types of dolphins. As early as 1977 it was scientifically described that tooth diseases can be described as quite normal – for wild bottlenose dolphins and even for those in the Dolphinarium.
Orca’s teeth in captivity
The main difference between the ones living in the wild and the others in captivity is, that to the last ones you can treat the teeth well.
Unlike in nature, infections or other diseases rarely develop in the first place, and if they have then it will be quickly resolved after a relatively short treatment. For the animals this is less stressful than for most people the treatment at the dentist, because for them, the dental care is integrated into a training in which they participate voluntarily.
In the Loro Parque the animals are regularly cleaned – not with a brush, but with a stream of water. The animals seem to like this because they voluntarily come out of the water only to get their teeth cleaned by the trainers. So the rows of teeth of the animals could be in some kind worn out like in the wild orcas, but just healthy. Currently, no animal in the Loro Parque has any diseases in this direction – many wild of the same species would be glad if that would be their own case with. It would be almost surprising to see a flawless row of teeth in all animals.
At this point, I cannot speak about SeaWorld, because there I have neither seen the rows of teeth properly, nor am I aware exactly what measures are taken such as for dental care or how healthy the animals are currently. In Loro Parque, I was able to observe the animals in compliance with all safety standards, as an independent journalist. This snapshot of the matriarch Kohana was taken during a feeding session.Feeding Orca matriarch Kohana | (c)opyright: Philipp J. Kroiß
Kohana is currently 15 years old and compared to other Orca matriarch, in the wild and in captivity, she has an impeccable set of teeth for her age. Both the veterinarianson site and an independent veterinarian, could confirm me in personal talks that no animal had any problems.
Pseudoscience of animal rights activists
Ingrid Visser, who occasionally visits Loro Parque and is one of the authors of a very dubious study of orca teeth, rightfully has no way to examine the orcas or take other photos than any other visitor. It would be negligent, for example, to let a person close to the animals that says, for example, that the adorable orca matriarch Morgan should rather be dead than live in Loro Parque.
Independent experts and scientists, however, who are not in contact with her; see that could have had a promising scientific career and throw it to the hut just to spread populism via orcas in captivity, or are involved with other activists of this grouping, may and should of course be able to assess the orcas. No credible scientist has yet complained about the dental situation. Thus, the Loro Parque achieved the best rating in the prestigious and independent audit for the Humane certificate.
Naturally, those who use disinformation to entice bona fide donors to their donation pot claim the opposite. Four of the five authors of the paper “Tooth damage in captive orcas (Orcinus orca)” are animal rights activists and none of them are veterinarians or experts in the field of Orca care. The animal rights industry is represented in this study of two dishonourably dismissed former SeaWorld Trainer, one animal rights author and of only a person with an academic qualification in this field, called Carolina Loch (Santos DASilva) – although she is not a veterinarian, and she has been involved with this study completely exposed to the mockery of serious scientists. Why?
Unlike reputable dental studies, these animals were never examined by veterinarians. The animal rights activists just went to the parks and took pictures – as every viewer can do (several meters away). Based on these photos, an evaluation took place. You have to imagine that: you go to the dentist, who takes pictures and then makes a diagnosis. This is not a serious doctor.
So anyone can understand that this pseudo-science is pretty “ineffective” because it cannot make representative statements. It is because of their actions, the paper on which it was printed, not worth. The activists are currently trying to cover up their advertising for the study neatly to persuade donors to donate their well earned money to very intransparent and frivolous organizations, because in the animal rights industry you earn well – for the top players are three-digit annual salaries in the management floor not uncommon. Such flamboyant scandals undoubtedly fill the coffers and are ultimately lucrative for populists by ultimately no spending.
What is left over?
Except for a bit of “publicity feed”, this study has no importance. Anyone who cites them as evidence in the professional world will be punished badly. It is not used except in the circles of animal rights, because it is not serious enough then just for than populism. Whether Loch will ever be able to work respectably again, after she gets her name for this ridiculousness, one has to wait. It is extremely embarrassing without a veterinarian, the neatly examined the animals to give from the audience perspective assessments on the health of animals and then want to sell the sale as a science. People who have been minimally concerned with the matter know that too.
The zoo world will keep this study active for a while, because it will certainly be dug up again and again by the fanatical zoo opponents. The Loro Parque has already informed about it. Since the activists keep affixing this theme, it has long been disproved on the zoos.media, YouTube channel, which cited a video by dolphinaria.truth:
We will see how long the animal rights activists will still ride on this already refuted “Möchtgern” argument and also how many articles, videos and blog posts there are.
What is certain, is that the laws of the animal rights industry also do not become truer although it is constantly repeated or tried to prove by ineffective pseudo-science.