Not all animals were created equal by God. Levels of intelligence and awareness can vary greatly species to species.
Dolphins and orcas, or killer whales (which actually belong to the dolphin family), have been found to be sentient and self aware.
What do these terms mean exactly?
Responsive to or conscious of sense impressions <sentient beings>
Finely sensitive in perception or feeling
An awareness of one's own personality or individuality
Animals that are self aware posses a high level of intelligence. They are aware of their existence as an individual and experience pain and pleasure. They also recognize that pleasure is preferable to pain.
Orcas and dolphins are among the few animals that pass the mirror self recognition test, which determines self awareness.
Like humans, when they look into the mirror, they don’t just see another orca or dolphin, they see themselves and recognize that they are a unique individual.
A study has revealed that orcas have an extension in their brain that processes emotions. That extension is not found in the human brain.
Experts have concluded that these animals are highly sensitive emotionally and socially. Their social lives and relationships are very complex.
This is important to keep in mind, as the effects of captivity can be greatly intensified on these types of animals.
SeaWorld parks call all of their orcas by the stage name “Shamu”; even though each individual animal has its own name. This is an attempt to generalize and devalue these intelligent creatures.
It is an easy strategy to cover up all of the orca deaths at SeaWorld. When one Shamu dies, another by the same name quickly takes its place, and visitors are none the wiser.
To God, orcas are unique individuals. He chose to give each orca a “saddle patch” which is the grey or white mark on their back behind the dorsal fin.
Just like human fingerprints, no two are the same. These marks are God’s special way of showing us that, unlike the many animals that are indistinguishable, every orca is distinct.