Ramu - orca

From WikiAnimal

Sex: Male

Pod: Southern Residents (K pod)

Place of capture: Yukon Harbor, Washington State

Date of capture: February 15, 1967

Age at capture: Approx. 4 years

Date of death: January 12, 1982

Cause of death: Cardiopulmonary decomposition

Location of death: SeaWorld Florida

Ramu was among the first of the 5 Yukon Harbor orcas to be bought by SeaWorld. He was transferred to SeaWorld San Diego on March 11, 1967 where he lived with Kilroy and Shamu.

In 1969, Kandu, one of the Yukon Harbor orcas, joined them at the San Diego park. The 4 whales got along well together and Ramu was even used in performances. Due to the increasing number of whales, SeaWorld had to build a brand new tank. However, in 1971, both Shamu and Kandu died. Both Ramu and Kilroy were moved to the new tank and in September 1971, they were joined by Kandu III and Kona who had been recently captured. Ramu stayed at the park for 4 more years until he was “rented” by the U.S. Navy for a year.

John Hall, a Navy scientist, claims that the reason Ramu was available was because of his aggressive behavior. Throughout the year, Ramu was used for a hearing study. The study involved him sitting completely still in an enclosure that was sound proof. He would wait for a ‘cue sequence’ and listen carefully for a period of time. If he heard the tone, he was to back out of the listening enclosure, turn around, and press a lever. If he did not hear the tone, he was to remain stationed until the sequence started again.

Occasionally, researchers would insert something called a 'catch trial’ where no tone would be produced. This was to test to see if Ramu was doing what’s known as 'prospecting’, where he would pretend to hear the tone and go to press the lever, despite there having been no tone pressed. According to Hall, the first time he did it, Ramu hesitantly moved over and barely touched the lever. Hall tapped a small piece of metal conduit (piping) on the wall of the equipment booth. Ramu them swam over, lifted his head, and looked into the booth through the plexiglas window as if to say, “What’s going on in there?”.

Hall decided to give the whale a 10 minute time out before coming back to work. Five trials in, Ramu was 'prospecting’ again. Hall then clanked the wall with the metal conduit before moving to close the plexiglas window. Before Hall could close the window all the way, Ramu came through the window, shattering the plexiglas and spraying water from his mouth and all over the equipment before backing away. Hall claimed that Ramu was a workaholic and would only get upset when he recognized a cue that meant his work session would be ending. Afterwards, Ramu never 'prospected’ again through the remaining three to four thousand trials.

During an interview with Frontline, Hall remarked that “they have so much mental capability that they are only limited in their capability by our ability to communicate with them.”

After his time with the Navy, Ramu was transferred in June 1975 to the new SeaWorld park in Florida along with another orca named Sandy. It’s unknown whether the two performed together or not. In 1977, Sandy passed away and was replaced by another female named Kona II. Ramu seemed to get along with her well. They were both joined by a juvenile named Kahana a year later.

On January 12, 1982, Ramu died due to cardiopulmonary decomposition.

See also