Belugas that have lived in captivity for a long time can’t survive out in the wild. But can people make their captive habitats better? (SeaLifeTrust)

Belugas that have lived in captivity for a long time can’t survive out in the wild. But can people make their captive habitats better? (SeaLifeTrust)

More than 300 beluga whales live in captivity. You might see one in an aquarium!

More than 300 beluga whales live in captivity. You might see one in an aquarium!

Belugas are playful creatures. They love to play with each other and sometimes “surprise” aquarium visitors too.

Belugas are playful creatures. They love to play with each other and sometimes “surprise” aquarium visitors too.

 The whales in the wild have less stress than those in aquariums. Less stress may lead to longer lives.

The whales in the wild have less stress than those in aquariums. Less stress may lead to longer lives.

Where Should Whales Be?

Posted: November 1, 2020

Little Grey and Little White were about a year old when people captured them in Russian waters. They were then sold to a park in China, where they lived in an indoor pool. After growing up in captivity, Little Grey and Little White will never be able to make their home in the open ocean again. Still, a new owner wanted to move them to a place where they could live more like belugas in the wild. 

More than 300 belugas live in captivity around the world. Should they? Not everyone agrees. On one hand, it gives people joy to see whales and other sea mammals up close at parks. Not everyone has opportunity to see these creatures in the wild. Marine mammal shows can share the wonder of the animals with all watchers. Scientists can study captive whales more easily than wild ones. What they learn gives them ideas for protecting whales in the wild. Captive whales may also have access to medical care they wouldn’t receive in the open sea.

BUT—when whales live in the ocean, they have miles and miles of space in which to move. They dive thousands of feet deep. Man-made tanks—even big ones—offer only a fraction of the area whales are designed to roam. Living in some whale tanks would be like inhabiting a bathtub instead of a neighborhood! Whales are designed to constantly move long distances. In tanks, they grow bored. Captive whales live much shorter lives than whales in the wild.

People are stewards—caretakers—of God’s world. We even care for whales. Just a small number of people can have a big impact on these huge mammals. We can put whales in safe environments or dangerous ones. We can hunt them to extinction—or we can study them carefully with a sense of awe and responsibility.