Free Willy Mapped: List of Captive Orcas

World Orca Day comes each year on July 14th. The day celebrates wild killer whales mostly abundant in the cold waters of Antarctica, Norway, and Alaska. But it also includes the 103 orcas—living and deceased—held in captivity.

At the time of writing, 59 captive killer whales are alive around the world, one is classified as “escaped,” and 43 have died in captivity since the first orca was captured in 1961.

We’ll dive into where most of the list of captive orcas are located, how many are held in various SeaWorlds, and the most common breed and origin of the world’s captive killer whales.

You can sort captive orcas by gender, breed, origin, age, status, cause of death, and more on the map below.

View Mapped List of Captive Orcas in a full screen map

Where Most Orcas in Captivity Are Located

Corky II during a Shamu show at SeaWorld San Diego

Of the 103 captive killer whales on the map, nearly 60% are or were located in one of eight places—and not all are SeaWorld. So let’s dive into the list of captive orcas and where most reside.

  • SeaWorld San Diego – 14 orcas
  • Washington U.S. – 10
  • SeaWorld Orlando – 9
  • Loro Parque, Spain – 8
  • SeaWorld San Antonio – 6
  • Kamogawa Sea World – 5
  • Marineland of Antibes – 4
  • Chimelong Ocean Kingdom – 4

While not all are SeaWorld, it’s still the top location. In fact, all three U.S. SeaWorld locations have held or currently hold at least six killer whales. Of course, San Diego (the first location, which opened in 1964) has held the most.

SeaWorld’s Captive Killer Whales

As for the SeaWorld orcas names: Corky II (the longest-held captive orca in the world and largest female in captivity), Ikaika, Kalia, Keet, Makani, Nakai, Orkid, Shouka, and Ulises (the oldest and largest male in captivity) reside there at the time of writing. Amaya, Baby Shamu ll, Kandu, Kasatka, and Winston lived there prior to their death.

SeaWorld Orlando houses Makaio, Malia, Nalani, Trua, and Katina (Kandu 6) currently, and was the home of Kalina (Baby Shamu), Kayla, Taima, and the infamous Tilikum of Blackfish. San Antonio’s SeaWorld whales names include Kamea, Kyuquot, Sakari, Takara, and Tuar, along with the deceased Kyara.

Very little is known about the 10 orcas that were captured and later died near Washington state, though all were between September 1962 and August 1970. Let’s move on to different waters: breed and origin of these captive killer whales.

Twelve Breeds of Orcas

Many are surprised to learn there are different types of orcas. But within the waters of the world and among the many different species of ocean life swim killer whales of various breeds.

As 62 of the world’s captive orcas were captured or rescued from the wild, different breeds of killer whales can be found in the same tanks at SeaWorld and other marine parks. So let’s see which breeds we’re actually seeing when we visit these parks.

Breed Number of captive orcas
100% Icelandic 33
100% Russian Transient 21
Unknown (Southern Resident?) 10
100% Southern Resident 5
75% Icelandic – 25% Southern Resident 4
100% Japanese 4
87.5% Icelandic – 12.5% Southern Resident 3
50% Icelandic – 50% Southern Resident 2
50% Icelandic – 50% Northern Resident 2
100% Russian 2
100% Northern Resident 2
100% Argentinian Transient 2

The table above shows the breeds of more than one captive orca. Most (~87%) of the world’s captive orcas are Icelandic, Russian, or Southern (from Washington state’s Puget Sound) Resident—or at least some part of the three.

When describing orca breeds, Resident typically indicates those that eat fish while those that eat seals, sea lions, and other mammals are deemed Transient.

Notable captive Icelandic whales include Keiko (Free Willy) along with Tilikum and Katina from SeaWorld Orlando.

Of the Russian variety are Tyson and Nukka now located in Zhuhai, China’s Chimelong Ocean Kingdom. In fact, all four of the park’s killer whales are 100% Russian Transient. Southern Residents Winston and Kandu were kept at SeaWorld San Diego.

This leaves 13 captive killer whales of another breed such as Japanese, Northern Resident, or Argentinian Transient.

Orcas’ Origins into Captivity

Where these whales came from before captivity is also of interest. Two of the world’s most famous orcas: Free Willy‘s Keiko and Blackfish‘s Tilikum were wild-captured. But the same can’t be said for all of the 103 killer whales on the map. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Captured: 60 killer whales
  • Captive born: 41
  • Rescued: 2
Tilikum, captured in November ​​1983 performing at SeaWorld Orlando

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