Exclusively for zoos.media – 15.09.2021. Author: Philipp J. Kroiß
With a sensational video of the orca Kiska, animal rights activists are complaining about a situation that ultimately they themselves have caused.
Two-faced outrage over Kiska
I guess “orca masturbates and rubs herself on the side of the tank” isn’t newsworthy but “distressed orca bangs head on the side of the tank” is… pic.twitter.com/bRujVmfWcF
— cetacean needed (@cetaceaneeded) September 14, 2021
A tweet that brilliantly sums up how misguided laypeople, who want to “free” orcas, cannot even interpret basic animal behaviour. The typical angle of the video and screenshots used to spread the video does not show it, but the view from above does: Kiska is rubbing her genitalia against an edge of the pool. What we can observe is masturbation – a topic that is already taboo in humans.
Dolphins like to have sex – also by themselves
You can twist and turn the biology of dolphins – and orcas are the largest dolphins -, but sex is an important part of their lives, whether it involves social interaction or not. Males like to penetrate fish or rub their penis against something to make it feel like penetration or same-sex sex. Females, on the other hand, rub themselves against other animals or things to stimulate their clitoris. This worthwhile article with anatomical drawings explains it very well. In the video, Kiska is stimulating this very spot by sliding back and forth on the edge of a step in the pool. In the process, her head comes close to the pane. As soon as she is done, she swims away.
Nothing really world-shattering is happening, but when a huge orca masturbates successfully, the climax is impressive or even intimidating and involves certain movements and water displacement. Unfortunately, masturbation is a taboo subject in society, although it is not only a natural part of human behaviour but also completely normal among animals – from domesticated to wild animals, i.e. dogs, elephants, monkeys, goats, dolphins, and porcupines, as well as other animals, all masturbate from time to time. For instance, it is known that female chimpanzees can turn a piece of wood into a sort of dildo. Nubian ibexes, on the other hand, do not need such tools – the male’s penis is so long that it can perform autofellatio.
It has also become quite clear why animals do this. Sure, for one thing, they do it for the moment, but in evolution everything has a purpose. Animals that masturbate have an evolutionary advantage: the male’s sperm is “fresher”, and the likelihood of producing offspring is therefore higher; the female’s vaginal muscles are fitter, and her vaginal secretion is fresher – this too raises the likelihood of having offspring. Masturbation is therefore beneficial to reproduction, but it is also beneficial to health: South African xerini (ground squirrels) males masturbate regularly after mating – this enables them to get rid of pathogens with the sperm that can be transmitted between xerini during mating. In humans, this method is not safe to prevent certain diseases, hence it is not a transferrable principle.
Kiska is not allowed to have company
The orca Kiska lives alone – by force. This is not the keeper’s fault, it is because breeding orcas is prohibited in Canada. The only contraceptive method that truly works is to separate males and females, and if breeding is banned, you have to do it. Orcas do not form bachelorette groups, and, therefore, the only way to keep them is alone because we know that there are solitary killer whales in nature. There is no other legal way to keep them. Ironically, these regulations stem from the animal rights industry, which now wants to create a big scandal around Kiska masturbating, and the industry can rely on the yellow press do to so, who neither poses critical questions nor thinks twice before lying to its readers.
All the outrage over this behaviour is full of duplicity and hypocrisy, and of course, it has an ulterior motive: the animal rights industry wants to get hold of the animal to bring it into its own care. They frame this as a “liberation” or “release”, although it would mean no significant change for Kiska. In the net cages, which the animal rights industry has planned for her, Kiska would also have to rub herself against things or other animals in order to be sexually satisfied, because there too, breeding is not allowed or even wanted. The only way to guarantee contraception 100% is by separating males and females. At the same time, importing orcas into Canada is not allowed, which means that she would not have any company there either.
Ultimately, the animal rights industry is criticising something that they themselves have caused through lies, populism and reckless disinformation campaigns: an orca whose only sexual fulfilment is masturbation. These are the consequences that we will also start to see further to the south of the US: at SeaWorld too, we will eventually see these last animals, who have to rub themselves against or penetrate things to experience any sexual gratification at all, for there aren’t any other orcas left who could give it to them. This no longer has anything to do with animal welfare, but such are the consequences of the anti-orca-policy of in this regard populist North America.
Breeding orcas is important
Orca breeding is of paramount importance: on the one hand, for research and the thereby possible conservation of populations, but also for the animal’s well-being:
Sexual well-being or sexual balance is often overlooked when it comes to animal welfare because the topic is so widely frowned upon. Yet dolphins will have sex – no matter what. The animals’ sexual drive is just too strong. As a keeper, you can decide how to organise this, but presuming to be able to stop it from happening or that animals do not do this often is characteristic of an incompetent animal rights industry, for whom no lie is too abstruse to somehow get hold of the animals. For the orcas, other dolphins, and whales it would be better if they could just keep reproducing – only this ensures long-term animal welfare.