Update: KSB told us that although they created 3D simulations for SeaWorld, “SeaWorld has not built the treadmill and isn’t planning on doing so.”
Poor SeaWorld. Its biggest killer whale killed three people, and that became the subject of a documentary, as if animal rights activists weren’t unhappy enough already. To stir up some good press, someone decided the whale version of a hamster wheel might be a good idea. According to theme park site Mice Chat:
SeaWorld has been working with KSB Pumps, which normally builds attractions for Surf Parks, to potentially construct what they are calling a Killer Whale Treadmill. Feasibility studies and 3D modeling were conducted for a device which would create water flow speeds up to 30 miles per hour, essentially simulating the sensation of endless swimming.
Two reactions: “This is bullshit” and “Hey, that’s kind of a nice way to give whales more exercise.” The blog Earth in Transition quotes David Kirby to explain why you might feel conflicted, if you care about whales:
If [anti-captivity activists] applaud SeaWorld for giving its whales more opportunity to exercise and swim for “miles” a day, they are tacitly implying that captivity just needs to be made better, and then it will be acceptable … On the other hand, if they condemn the “whale treadmill” outright, they will be accused by SeaWorld and its supporters of displaying callous indifference toward improving their lives.
It’s a complicated issue. The image of a killer whale languishing listlessly in a too-small tank (as Earth in Transition describes) is heartbreaking. But making SeaWorld disappear somehow — and preventing a replacement or five from popping up — seems like a pipe dream. Killer whale exercise machines might be a step in the right direction — or at least a step to stay in the exact same place but be a little healthier, which is really what treadmills are for.