Trua: No Outlet for His Curiosity
By Christina Colvin
Trua was born into captivity in November 2005 and has never known life beyond the flat, featureless walls of his tank. He is nicknamed “Freckles” for the dot on his eyepatch and two dots on his neck.
Trua’s mother and father are Takara and Taku, and former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove tells us that “Takara was separated from Trua when she was reassigned to the Texas park in San Antonio. At that time, Trua was just three years old.”
In the wild, orca mothers and their male children frequently spend their entire lives together in close-knit family groups called pods. Reflecting on his time with Takara, Hargrove says, “I can tell you without a doubt that her spirit was broken” when SeaWorld shipped her children away from her.
As Trua matured, SeaWorld began training him to do “waterwork,” or tricks with trainers who get into the water with the whales.
His training in waterwork ended in 2010, however, when SeaWorld was ordered to stop after Trua’s grandfather, Tilikum, killed trainer Dawn Brancheau. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited SeaWorld for putting its employees in danger, and SeaWorld trainers are still forbidden from entering tanks with the whales.
To this day, Trua lives at SeaWorld Orlando, where he spends time with the other Orlando orcas and is generally friendly with them. He has found a particularly good friend in Kayla, a female orca who was born at SeaWorld San Antonio. After the company separated Trua from his mother, Kayla stepped up as a steadfast companion for him.
SeaWorld characterizes him as interactive, eager to learn, and highly communicative, but he lives at SeaWorld Orlando, an environment with minimal opportunities for him to satisfy his passion for new experiences.
Even though Trua does have friends in Orlando, his life is far from idyllic. A veterinarian visiting him recently observed him swimming in a repetitive pattern, a sign of boredom and stress. Wild orcas never exhibit such repetitive swimming patterns.
We find it heartbreaking to think of this curious individual who is friendly toward his tank mates being continuously disappointed and bored by the barren, unchanging conditions of his life in captivity. A seaside sanctuary is truly where Trua belongs.