When you think of penguins, you might imagine a colony of frolicking birds waddling around in the snow and swimming freely in the ocean. But for penguins stuck in glass boxes at SeaWorld, this happy image couldn’t be further from reality.

Penguins on the Beach

SeaWorld doesn’t just abuse and mistreat orcas—penguins at its parks suffer, too. From parading them around as living props for human entertainment to keeping them in dangerous, filthy conditions, below are only six of the reasons why SeaWorld needs to release the penguins it holds captive into sanctuaries immediately:

1. Penguins don’t want to live in small tanks.

This penguin wasn’t fooling around—she was trying to make a brave bid for freedom. The incident reportedly took place at SeaWorld Orlando in Florida. You can see that she finally escaped from the glass box after many attempts, only to be tossed back into the watery cage. Yep, it broke our hearts, too.

2. People dangerously litter SeaWorld’s tanks.

Penguins at Dirty Seaworld

Sarah Fischbeck, a former water-quality diver who worked at SeaWorld San Diego between 2007 and 2013, told The Dodo that she would find all sorts of things in the penguins’ enclosure—everything from shoes to pennies! She explained just how life-threatening it can be for penguins to eat litter: “[The penguins] don’t know any better—they see something shiny, they’re going to eat it. They have penguin surgeries all the time [to remove objects from the birds] … it’s horrible.”

3. SeaWorld uses penguins as props.

Penguins aren’t inanimate objects to be exploited purely for entertainment value. They’re sensitive animals capable of experiencing fear, pain, happiness, and anxiety, just like us. And they can easily become stressed, frightened, and agitated when forced into close contact with humans. Even though SeaWorld knows this, the company has more than once displayed penguins on the trading-room floor of the New York Stock Exchange as part of inhumane publicity stunts.

4. The penguin encounter at SeaWorld is highly stressful for the animals.

Penguin Encounter at SeaWorld

SeaWorld’s “Penguins Up-Close Tour” lets the public “interact with and touch a penguin.” At around $60 per person, this activity is a money grab for SeaWorld, but the penguins pay a higher price—they’re forced into very stressful, unnatural situations and made to interact with humans, even though their instinct is to avoid contact with us.

5. SeaWorld has stolen baby penguins from their parents.

Penguins, Penguin, Baby Penguin, Penguin Family, Baby Penguin

In 2011, SeaWorld reportedly took 10 penguin chicks who were still dependent on their parents from Antarctica and shipped them to SeaWorld in California for “research purposes.” Can you imagine how you would feel if someone broke into your home and abducted you or your baby sibling  from your parents?

6. SeaWorld has shipped penguins in plastic crates via FedEx.

Gentoo Penguin at SeaWorld

WTF? Sadly, this isn’t a joke. In late 2015, SeaWorld shipped 20 gentoo penguins across the country from its California location to a zoo in Michigan. The journey lasted 13 hours, and the birds were reportedly transported in 4-by-4-foot plastic crates with air holes, standing on blocks of ice.

SeaWorld takes marine animals from their native habitats, confines them to small tanks, ships them from place to place, and forces them to entertain people in exchange for food. Starting to get the real picture?

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals 

What You Can Do

SeaWorld has been cited numerous times by the USDA for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act, and many animals have died while held prisoner at the company’s facilities. Help the penguins and other animals imprisoned at SeaWorld by refusing to patronize its marine parks—or any other parks or aquariums that display wild animals—and by asking the company to release all the animals it holds captive into seaside sanctuaries.

Spread the word!