Yes, the movie “Blackfish” was seriously thought-provoking.
But it was also more propaganda than science.
And now there’s a group of scientists bring that fact to the forefront.
The anti-zoological crowd has built its legacy on sneaking misinformation into society through films, books, speeches and social media.
Sometimes, anti-zoo proponents will even try to sneak their agenda into real science, as Jeff Ventre and John Jett did with their 2015 paper claiming wild killer whales live longer than those in zoological facilities.
Since Ventre and Jett were so eager to pretend to be experts, they should have been ready for the real ones to call them out, which is exactly what happened at IMATA 2015.
Dr. Kelly Jaakkola, one of the world’s foremost experts in dolphin cognition, and Dr. Grey Stafford, a PhD biologist and expert on positive reinforcement training in zoological species, tore apart the Ventre and Jett paper in a 15 minute smackdown dual presentation at the conference held in the Bahamas.
“What you’ve got here is bad science” Dr. Jaakkola said, while introducing the Ventre-Jett lifespan piece, “and I don’t say that lightly, as a scientist.”
Dr. Jaakkola and Dr. Stafford proceeded to break down the problematic data, one damning bullet point at a time.
1: Inappropriate Handling of Data Sets
Ventre and Jett’s paper claims to compare the longevity of zoological whales to their wild counterparts, but it doesn’t do so in a statistically sound manner.
“In the wild, the field season doesn’t happen until 6 months after the calving season,” Dr. Jaakkola explains, “which means that when a calf is first sighted, it’s about 6 months old, which means if a wild calf dies before 6 months old, they never see it.”
In contrast, on the zoological side, all calves are counted, since all babies can be seen and recorded, skewing the data inexcusably in favor of a higher wild lifespan.
“Jeff and Ventre know this,” Dr. Stafford said, “and they know that the mortality rate for calves under 6 months in the wild, is agreed upon by pro and anti-zoo scientists to be around 50%.”
Bad data? You bet. And it only gets worse.