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Debate over whale longevity is futile

Nature volume 533, page 36 (05 May 2016) | Download Citation

The unquestionable importance of ethical animal husbandry aside, I doubt whether the ongoing dispute over the respective lifespans of captive and wild killer whales (Orcinus orca) will contribute anything to our long-term efforts to save the species (see Nature 531, 426–427; 2016).

The days of keeping killer whales in captivity are in any case numbered for marine parks such as SeaWorld in the United States. And the conservation value of breeding the tiny number of captive killer whales worldwide is negligible.

In my view, we should be focusing on the real conservation plight of wild killer-whale populations around the globe (see, for example, R. Esteban et al. Ecol. Indic. 66, 291–300; 2016). In the main, these are so poorly understood that entire populations are at risk of extinction (see P. J. N. de Bruyn et al. Biol. Rev. 88, 62–80; 2013).

Meanwhile, we waste precious resources debating the longevity of a handful of captive animals.

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  1. University of Pretoria, South Africa.

    • P. J. Nico de Bruyn


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Correspondence to P. J. Nico de Bruyn.

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