Welcome to this week’s instalment of Whale Wednesday! This week, we’re looking at our first male of the series, the rather impressive Ulises!
At 38 years of age and measuring 19 feet long and weighing a whopping 9,570 lbs, Ulises is the oldest male orca in captivity, and is only dwarfed by one killer whale in size- the infamous Tilikum.
His Capture and Early Life
Like the majority of the older orcas, Ulises was captured from the wild to bring into captivity, and, like many others, he was captured when he was around 3 years of age and taken away from his pod off the coast of Iceland in Reydarfjördur on November 7th, 1980
For the first month of his life in captivity, Ulises lived in the Sædyrasafnid Aquarium in Iceland. Since then he has been moved multiple times; from the aquarium to Rioleón Safari in December 1980 until June 1983, then to Barcelona Zoo until 1994 when he was transferred to SeaWorld, where he currently resides in the company’s San Diego park.
For the first 13 years of his captive life, Ulises had no interaction with any other whale. It seems sad that this is a worryingly reccuring theme, but at least he’s finally with some company, albeit not the same ecotype or from the same pod.
His Status In SeaWorld
As I mentioned above, Ulises is the second largest orca in captivity today, with only Tilikum being larger than him.
He is one of the more dominant males in the park, and is often seen to be picking on Corky if she is in the same tank as him. He will actively try and rake her skin, with the only exception of when Kasatka (the dominant female) is in the tank too.
This means that you will only ever see Ulises and Corky performing together when they are under the watchful eye of their matriarch. He has, however, formed a very close bond with Orkid, and can often be seen performing with her the most.
Unlike Tilikum and various other captive males, Ulises only has 2 calves; one named Moana born at Marineland Antibes in France to Wilkie on March 16th, 2011 and the most recent addition to SeaWorld San Diego, Amaya who was born to Kalia on December 2nd, 2014.
I can’t find any explaination as to why he hasn’t been bred from more often, but from my point of view, that’s definitely not a bad thing.
(Video of Ulises, Keet and Orkid by Tilikum16 on YouTube)
However, Ulises has had a bit of a past when it comes to trainers being in the water with him. While he hasn’t been found to actively aggressive towards his trainers (there’s only one recorded incident where he came out at his trainer), he has been known to display sexual tendancies towards anyone in the water with him.
It is because of this that waterwork with him was stopped, even before the 2010 waterwork ban was enforced.
How To Identify Ulises
Ulises is the biggest whale at San Diego, with only Keet being somewhat of a similar size. He can easily be identified by his uniquely curved dorsal fin, which hasn’t completely collapsed and has taken on which can only be described as a fish hook shape which curls over to his right.
False eyepatch wise, the only notable marking is a distinctive c shaped cut out in his right patch, nearest the eye, which is visible below.
He’s also known for being one of the only males to be able to lift his entire body out of the water when making a jump, something which many whales of his size struggle with because on the energy needed to shoot all that mass into the air!
I’m so glad we’re getting to some of the boys that are in captivity; after all, they are generally much larger, much less agile than the female whales. Not to say that females do better in captivity at all- the sooner we can end the captivity of these magnificent animals, the better!