Orkid: Personality and Intelligence
By Christina Colvin
Imagine someone who loves to learn. She adapts to fresh challenges with ease, combining prior knowledge and new information to solve problems.
Now imagine this individual spending her entire life in a barren, unchanging pool of water. Orkid, a killer whale, is this individual.
In 1988, she was born at SeaWorld San Diego to Orky 2 and Kandu 5, becoming the first orca born successfully at the park. Orkid’s father died a few days after her birth.
Her mother, Kandu 5, died the following year. How it happened is particularly upsetting:
The ever-protective Kandu felt that Corky, a female whale in the same tank, was getting too close to her calf. So she was attempting to assert dominance over Corky by raking her – scratching her with her teeth. As Kandu was attacking her, Corky moved to get out of the corner, and her massive 8,200-pound body hit Kandu’s jaw and broke it. The impact ruptured an artery in Kandu’s jaw, and she bled to death for the next 45 minutes, all the while swimming closely alongside her daughter, Orkid.
Orkid’s only other relative now was her half-sister Kayla who was living across the country in SeaWorld Orlando.
In spite of these losses, Orkid performs regularly at SeaWorld. She remains a favorite among trainers because of how quickly she learns new behaviors and how eager she is to pick up new concepts.
Orkid’s personality and intelligence make her an ideal candidate for life at a seaside sanctuary.
Perhaps her enthusiasm for learning also contributes to her tendency to become bored or frustrated given the repetitive tasks and behaviors required of SeaWorld’s marine mammals. Her frustration can certainly be seen when examining her history of dangerous interactions with trainers. Between 1990 and 2007, SeaWorld recorded 16 “behavioral incidents” involving Orkid. Overall, she has a record of the highest number of aggressions toward trainers, both in and out of the water. Some of these involved her potentially hurting herself; others involved her pushing or pulling trainers, including pulling some of them underwater.
Orkid’s personality and intelligence make her an ideal candidate for life at a seaside sanctuary, where a whole world of sensations, experiences and opportunities to play and learn would be available to her. She could enjoy a life of richness and excitement that a featureless, tiny tank can simply never provide.