On 17th October 2023, the orca Moana died at age 12 at Marineland, the marine park in Antibes, in the South of France. He was one of four remaining orcas held captive there. In their ocean homes, male orcas can live up to 50 years. He was born in captivity and spent his entire life confined to a small concrete tank, swimming in endless circles. Moana was also forced to perform to visitors for over a decade before his health declined.

Moana was the first orca in Europe to be born from artificial insemination. Wikie, his 22-year-old mother, is still at Marineland with two other orcas, Inouk, 24, and Keijo, 9. Just last month, the French animal rights organisation One Voice requested a health check for Moana and Inouk. They had noticed abnormal stereotypic behaviour in both orcas (which is a sign of difficulties in coping with captive life) and that Moana had subdermal wounds.

The French office of the animal group PETA said they contacted Marineland multiple times to request the transfer of these animals to suitable sanctuaries, organised protests in Antibes, and launched campaigns with celebrities in attempts to secure the release of the orcas. PETA US even bought shares in Marineland’s parent company, Parques Reunidos, to influence the company.

There are still many orcas kept in captivity around the world, and they are all suffering by being forced to survive in very small tanks compared with the over 100 miles of ocean they would swim in a day if they were in the wild, where they belong. On 18th August 2023, Tokitae the orca (also known as Lolita) died due to a suspected renal condition in the world’s smallest orca tank at the Miami Seaquarium, Florida, US, proving that the plans to move her to a seaside sanctuary came too late.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.