Saturday, March 19, 2016

Man Oh Man was this "A Whale of A Week!"

BREAKING NEWS: SeaWorld To End Captive Breeding of Killer Whales, Orca Shows. The surprise move means the company's 28 orcas will be the last it holds in captivity. Scroll down to get the full coverage of this big news!
Pygmy sperm whale calf, its mother, and a baby dolphin found dead on Australian beach.
A pygmy sperm whale calf, its mother, and a baby dolphin were found dead on an Australian beach.

The pygmy sperm whale calf and dolphin were discovered washed ashore on Peregian Beach, a small seaside town on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, while the mother whale was found about 2km north near Noosa, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection said. 

Images of the animals were posted on the Peregian Beach Village Facebook page Saturday, March 12. "It is not known how they died prior to being washed up on Peregian Beach," the post said. "The two Dwarf Sperm whales have cookie cutter shark bites on their bodies and some abrasions to the nose but are otherwise not physically damaged."

Dr. Michael Noad, an associate professor at the University of Queensland and Humpback Whale research scientist, was at the scene and took samples from the animals. According to a comment posted by Peregian Beach Village, Noad said that while the pygmy sperm whales have been recorded in several strandings before in Queensland, this is probably "the first record of a dwarf [sperm] whale in Queensland."

In a later comment, Peregian Beach Village wrote, "Thoughts discussed by Dr. Noad on the beach are the abrasions have come from the journey into the surf beach on the sand banks. The hole is a common mark made from a cookiecutter shark bite. Sadly they did not get permission to do a necropsy to see what internal issues may have occurred."

The measurements and photos were recorded by Coolum and North Shore Coast Care volunteers, and the Department of Heritage and Environment was contacted. The cetaceans were buried by Noosa Council.

Exploding whale? Dead blue whale about to spill guts all over Canada town - whale compilation.
Full video of whale corpse explosion: http://bit.ly/1Vbp6cg

A dead blue whale washed into the Trout River in Newfoundland, Canada, more than a week ago. It has since doubled in size, and the town residents fear it’s about to burst.

Whales can explode due to a build-up of methane and hydrogen sulphide and other gases within the rotting carcass. Especially if it’s been sitting in the sun for a few weeks. Preventative measures such as making cuts in the animal can help the gas to escape and are common.

The 81-foot-long, 60-ton dead whale is bloating on the waterfront with methane gas trapped inside, which may explode at some point in time. The decaying whale also causes a stinky problem as tourist season nears.

The authority doesn't want the whale become an attraction, and wants people stay away from the carcass, which would be carrying viruses or bacteria that can make people sick.

Emily Butler, the town clerk in Trout River, has sought help from the province's Environment and Government Services departments, and the federal Fisheries Department to remove the carcass. She said the town council considered having fishermen tow the whale carcass out to sea.

1. Whales can explode due to a build-up of methane and hydrogen sulphide and other gases within the rotting carcass. Especially if it’s been sitting in the sun for a few weeks. Preventative measures such as making cuts in the animal can help the gas to escape and are common.

2. A 15-meter southern right whale swimming near a group of people at Sydney's Bondi Beach knocked a surfer out cold with the slap of its tail. The whale was swimming near a group of surfers about 70 meters from the shore. Bishan Rajapakse was closest to the whale when it approached the group.

3. The whale shark is clearly still alive and the audience is well aware of it. At one point, blood and water jets from the creature’s body as the two fishermen cut it into thick slices. Onlookers seem shocked but the fisherman are cool as cucumbers. One fisherman even says: “It doesn’t matter. It’s fine” to the audience.

4. These pictures come to us from diver Keri Wilk who got caught up in the underwater s**tstorm off the coast of the Dominican Republic.

5. Williams, a 26-year-old extreme sports lover, was on a boat with some friends off western Australia over the weekend when they noticed something very large bobbing in the water. It turned out to be a several-week-old dead whale. Unlike a normal person, Williams thought it be totally rad if he swam over and “surfed” on the whale. Which he did, much to the delight of his friends.

SeaWorld Surprises by Ending Killer Whale Breeding. Theme park operator SeaWorld Entertainment has said it will stop breeding killer whales, and those currently at its parks will be the last. Orlando-based SeaWorld has faced sagging attendance and years of criticism over its treatment of the captive marine mammals as well as pressure from animal rights activists to end the public exhibition of killer whales altogether. SeaWorld, which operates parks in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio, said in November it would replace its signature “Shamu” killer whale shows in San Diego with displays focused on conservation.
In a stunning move, SeaWorld has agreed to stop breeding captive killer whales, meaning its 28 orcas will be the last generation owned by the company. SeaWorld also said it would end orca shows at all its entertainment parks by 2019.

The announcement was made Thursday morning on the blog of Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, which negotiated with SeaWorld over the past few months to craft the new policy.

Instead of breeding orcas, SeaWorld will now increase its focus on rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals in distress and bringing attention to rescued animals that cannot be released to raise awareness of their plight and educate the public about the growing threats to marine life.  
SeaWorld to End Captive Breeding of Killer Whales, Orca Shows. The surprise move means the company’s 28 orcas will be the last it holds in captivity. In a stunning move, SeaWorld has agreed to stop breeding captive killer whales, meaning its 28 orcas will be the last generation owned by the company. SeaWorld also said it would end orca shows at all its entertainment parks by 2019.

SeaWorld made the announcement Thursday morning in a joint statement with the Humane Society of the United States, which negotiated with the company over the past few months to craft the new policy.

The company will phase out its iconic “Shamu” show at all three of its U.S. parks and replace them with presentations focused on the animals’ natural environment, and it will neither receive killer whales from foreign parks nor send whales to them, including parks it hopes to open in Asia and the Middle East.

Instead of breeding orcas, SeaWorld will now invest $50 million over five years to increase its focus on rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals in distress and bringing attention to rescued animals that cannot be released to raise awareness of their plight and educate the public about the growing threats to marine life.

Some of that money will also be dedicated to advocacy campaigns to end commercial whaling and seal hunting and to fighting against shark finning, working to protect coral reefs, and reducing the commercial collection of ornamental tropical fish from the wild.

“As society’s understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it,” SeaWorld chief executive Joel Manby said in a statement. “By making this the last generation of orcas in our care and reimagining how guests will encounter these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter.”

Company representatives could not be immediately reached for further comment.

“It’s quite amazing,” Humane Society chief executive Wayne Pacelle said in a phone interview. “I really applaud Joel Manby for being an important new leader in taking these very big steps forward for the company.”

“To me, it’s just another big indicator of the power of the humane economy that businesses that are not putting animal welfare at the center of their thinking are at great risk,” he added. “Companies that make animal welfare a central tenet of their work have a great opportunity by doing the right thing.”

For decades, SeaWorld and the Humane Society have been engaged in a bitter war of words over killer whale captivity, making this new rapprochement all the more remarkable.

Pacelle said he began negotiating with Manby in January after the two were introduced by John Campbell, a conservative Republican from Orange County, California, who retired from the House of Representatives in 2014. Campbell and Manby knew each other from their years of working in the automobile dealership industry, Pacelle said.

“He called me and said Joel is a really good guy, and I think you would really like him a lot,” Pacelle said. “And I think that company has to change, and you need to spend some time with him and see if you can get somewhere.”

When they met, Manby, who took the reins of the company a year ago, told Pacelle that he was proud of the animal-rescue work SeaWorld does, Pacelle said.

“I said that was fine, but all your orca activities are stepping on the rest of your work,” Pacelle said. “No one can see that because your company is so defined by the treatment of your orcas.”

As another part of the change in its business practices, SeaWorld will source only sustainably raised seafood, crate-free pork, and cage-free eggs and will offer more vegan and vegetarian options at its restaurants and food service operations.

The news astounded Naomi Rose, a killer whale expert and marine-mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, who has been fighting against orca captivity for 23 years.

“It’s as gobsmacking as it sounds,” Rose said. “I’m giving full credit to Joel Manby and SeaWorld because this is not a small thing for them. It’s pretty shocking, in a good way.”

Rose said that although SeaWorld did not agree to all demands made by anti-captivity activists, such as retiring its killer whales to coastal sea sanctuaries, “this is what they have agreed to, and I think it’s huge.”

“This is what the Blackfish effect was working toward,” she added, referring to the 2013 documentary that focused worldwide attention on killer whale captivity. “That was the ask: End the breeding programs. And they’ve done that.”

Rose said SeaWorld’s ending of captive breeding accomplishes what a bill introduced in Congress last November sought to achieve and will make it easier to convince marine-mammal parks in other countries to follow suit.

The announcement came just one week after SeaWorld said its killer whale Tillikum was suffering from an incurable lung infection.

SeaWorld ruled out returing its captive orcas to the wild.

“The current population of orcas at SeaWorld—including one orca, Takara, that became pregnant last year—will live out their lives at the company’s park habitats, where they will continue to receive the highest-quality care based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine, science, and zoological best practices,” the company said in a statement.

Both Rose and Pacelle said SeaWorld is becoming more transparent under Manby’s stewardship.

“These practices that went long unquestioned have now been questioned, and good people are taking action,” Pacelle said. “We can encourage people to change by writing critical books or filming devastating documentaries.”

That change, he said, will be good for SeaWorld’s sagging reputation: “You do away with lawsuits and legislation and kids writing angry letters to you when you do the right thing.”
For years, PETA and loyal, compassionate members like you have campaigned long and hard to end the cruel confinement of orcas at SeaWorld. Today, there is finally a payoff, as SeaWorld has announced that it's ending its breeding program immediately. This means that the orcas who have been forcibly bred and confined for years to tanks that are, to them, the size of a bathtub will be the last ones made to endure a miserable life of deprivation at the parks!

SeaWorld has taken a step forward, but more changes must follow. Orcas, dolphins, beluga whales, seals, and many other animals have suffered in confinement at the parks for decades. To do right by them now, SeaWorld must open its tanks and release these long-suffering animals to ocean sanctuaries so that they may have some semblance of a life outside of prison tanks.

We must keep the pressure on until SeaWorld empties the tanks and ends the use of all live animals at its abusement parks. 
Today comes the payoff. For decades, orcas, beluga whales, seals, and many other animals have suffered in confinement at SeaWorld. And while this decision is a step in the right direction, to do right by the orcas now, SeaWorld must move these long-suffering animals to ocean sanctuaries so that they may have some semblance of a natural life outside their prison tanks. And we must remember the other animals who will remain in captivity until SeaWorld does right by all of them.

SeaWorld to End Captive Breeding of Killer Whales, Orca Shows 
   
The surprise move means the company's 28 orcas will be the last it holds in captivity. SeaWorld also said it would end orca shows at all its entertainment parks by 2019. 

Seven years after TakePart's parent company, Participant Media, brought you the Oscar-winning documentary film The Cove, more than 1 million people have joined us and taken action, demanding the end to not only the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan, but the capture and importation of dolphins, orcas, and other sea mammals for human entertainment. This morning's momentous announcement from SeaWorld is a huge victory for our community and our strong coalition of action partners, who have been working to protect the world's marine life. Your commitment and dedication to protecting all of the earth's creatures has effected real change.

Lincoln O'Barry, from the Dolphin Project and our longtime partner, tells us: "This change would not have been possible without the millions of dedicated activists worldwide that have protested, signed petitions and taken to social media. With SeaWorld’s resources, we call upon them to invest in immersive virtual reality or other emerging technologies which have the capability to provide an entirely cruelty-free form of entertainment and education." 

Instead of breeding orcas, SeaWorld will focus on rescue and rehabilitation of marine mammals in distress—bringing attention to rescued animals that cannot be released and raising awareness about their plight. 

In addition, SeaWorld says it will launch campaigns to call for the end of commercial whaling and seal hunting and to fight against shark finning. It also plans to work to protect coral reefs and reduce the commercial collection of ornamental tropical fish from the wild. 

Your letter writing, pledge taking, and petition signing made your voice heard. We believe that the collective call for SeaWorld to stop these abusive practices was heeded, and the hard, on-the-ground efforts of leading nonprofit partners—combined with the impact of other films such as Blackfish and the work of journalists like TakePart's own David Kirby—stemmed the tide. 


 

"Today we had one of the biggest victories to date when SeaWorld announced that it was terminating its captive breeding program and ending its orca shows for good…. Thank you for joining us in this fight. Thank you for believing in us, because with your help we really are changing the world."
 
Louie Psihoyos and Candace Crespi | Oceanic Preservation Society


 

"Dolphin Project has been monitoring SeaWorld from the very beginning and will continue to do so. It is tremendously encouraging that SeaWorld is finally putting an end to its unethical and irresponsible captive orca breeding program, now that their stud orca is dying (very convenient timing). The company now needs to put its resources to good use and retire their orcas to a natural sea sanctuary. It is SeaWorld's responsibility to ensure that these free-ranging, sonic creatures do not remain trapped in bleak concrete boxes until the day they die. SeaWorld has made billions of dollars in profit from captive orcas. The time is now to spend some of this fortune by building a real orca sanctuary, allowing the animals to retire in peace and dignity. The same should hold true for the other species of dolphins held captive at SeaWorld. They suffer too."
 
Ric O'Barry | Founder and Director | Dolphin Project 
 


 

"It is wonderful news that the current generation of orcas will be the last to live in captivity at SeaWorld.

Thank you so much to everyone who has taken action on behalf of orcas in captivity. Please join us as we continue to tell the world that wild animals are wildlife. Not entertainers."
 
World Animal Protection
UPDATE: Urge SeaWorld to Send Orcas to Sea Sanctuaries and Stop the Use of All Animals!
orca at seaworld
For years, PETA has been campaigning hard to end the cruel confinement of orcas at SeaWorld. Today, there is finally a payoff, as SeaWorld has announced that it is ending its breeding program immediately. This means that the orcas who have been forcibly bred and confined for years to tanks that are, to them, the size of a bathtub will be the last ones made to endure a miserable life of deprivation at the parks! Now, SeaWorld must open its tanks and release these long-suffering animals to ocean sanctuaries so that they can have some semblance of a life outside of prison tanks.

Intelligent, social ocean animals are kept in the pitifully small tanks at SeaWorld and denied everything that is natural and important to them. In the wild, dolphins such as orcas swim up to 100 miles a day in the open ocean, but captive dolphins are confined to small tanks in which the reverberations from their sonar bounce off the walls, driving them insane. Some of these animals were violently captured and torn away from their homes in the wild, and many are forced to learn and perform circus-style tricks. According to whistleblower tips from trainers, withholding food from animals who refuse to perform is a common training method, and because of the intense boredom and aggression caused by captivity, orcas gnaw on the metal gates and concrete corners of the tanks and damage their teeth.

The only thing that people learn from visiting a SeaWorld theme park is how miserable life is for the animals confined there. Children see mere shadows of animals, defeated beings who do not engage in natural behavior and cannot live as nature intended. Marine parks teach all the wrong lessons: that it is acceptable to imprison animals; to deprive them of freedom of movement and thought; to forbid them the chance to establish their natural territory and explore; and to breed and separate them as we, not they, please; and to watch them go insane from boredom and loneliness.

SeaWorld has taken a step forward, but more changes must follow. Help all the animals imprisoned by SeaWorld today by taking a moment to ask the company to immediately set in place a firm and rapid plan to release all the animals to sanctuaries where they will be given a semblance of the natural life they have been denied for so long.

SeaWorld CEO, Joel Manby has announced that the US company will end all orca breeding programmes this year, making this generation of captive orcas the last to be kept in SeaWorld's tanks.

In the surprise announcement, Manby also announced the phasing out of all theatrical orca whale shows in all parks.

In 2015, the California Coastal Commission agreed to only allow SeaWorld to expand its San Diego marine park if the breeding of orcas there ceased. The decision (which SeaWorld is currently fighting), combined with falling profits, fines, insider dealing and spying scandals, a growing global public backlash against the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity, and the ending of numerous corporate partnership deals have all put continuous pressure on SeaWorld.

WDC anti-captivity campaigner, Rob Lott said; "WDC welcomes this major news announcement and is thrilled that SeaWorld’s new management is finally aligned with public opinion and recognises the fact that keeping performing orcas in tanks for our entertainment is no longer acceptable. SeaWorld holds 29 of the 56 orcas currently held in captivity and WDC will continue to campaign to improve their situation through the creation of more naturalistic sea pen sanctuaries where captive orcas can be retired. However, it’s important to remember that SeaWorld also holds numerous dolphins and belugas captive and it remains to be seen what fate awaits them.”
SeaWorld Orlando
Killer whales, more properly known as orcas, have been kept in captivity since 1961, helpless victims of a blatantly commercial experiment which has seen dozens of wild orcas plucked from their families and forced to live in artificial social groupings which bear scant resemblance to their natural order.
Morgan, held in captivity at Loro Parque in Tenerife, Spain.
There are currently a total of 56 orcas held in captivity (23 wild-captured plus 33 captive-born) in at least 12 marine parks in 8 different countries.
At least 150 orcas have been taken into captivity from the wild since 1961 (including Pascuala and Morgan).
  • 127 of these orcas are now dead.
  • In the wild, male orcas live to an average of 30 years (maximum 50-60 years) and 46 years for females (maximum 80-90 years).
  • At least 163 orcas have died in captivity, not including 30 miscarried or still-born calves.
  • SeaWorld holds 23 orcas in its three parks in the United States and owns (at least) a further four at Loro Parque in Spain (ownership of Adan and Morgan not verified). At least forty-five orcas have died at SeaWorld.
  • One of the most infamous capture incidents saw over 80 whales from the Southern Resident population of orcas in Washington State rounded-up at Penn Cove in 1970. Seven were taken into captivity while as many as five whales died. Today this population is recognised as endangered. Only one captured whale, Lolita, is still alive, held at Miami Seaquarium.
  • The longest surviving orca in captivity is Corky, captured in 1969 from the Northern Resident population that inhabits the waters around Vancouver Island, Canada. She is held at SeaWorld in San Diego. None of her seven offspring in captivity have survived. Her family (known as the A5 pod) continue to thrive in the wild, including Corky's brother, Fife, who you can adopt to help support our work.
  • At least 13 orcas have been taken from the wild into captivity since 2002, most recently in Russia.


THE FACTS ABOUT ORCAS IN CAPTIVITY IN FIGURES
Orcas in captivity infographic
The growing uneasiness with the concept of keeping orcas in captivity has only been increased by the renowned documentary Blackfish, documenting the reality of the captives' existence. Despite the best attempts of the display industry to blow a smokescreen over such negative publicity, the wider world is now increasingly aware that all is not well in fantasy-land. In recent years, first a trickle, then a steady torrent, of incidents have been reported. A growing catalogue of 'accidents', illnesses, failed pregnancies and premature deaths that have helped to show up this industry for the cruel circus that it really is.

Read about the orcas held in captivity


orcas-in-captivity : Sheet1
Sheet1
Tell Musicians Not to Perform at SeaWorld!
In a desperate attempt to recover its sinking financial ship, SeaWorld Orlando is targeting Christians by putting on a Christian musical festival called Praise Wave. Even though Christian singers such as Martina McBride, Willie Nelson, and Trace Adkins have joined dozens of other musicians in canceling performances at SeaWorld, Michael W. Smith, BeBe Winans, and The Clark Sisters are set to perform at the abusement park, attracting unknowing Christians who will be supporting a company that forces highly intelligent orcas to perform cruel circus-style tricks in concrete tanks that are the human equivalent of bathtubs.

Michael W. Smith, BeBe Winans, and The Clark Sisters can set a meaningful example of what it means to be good stewards of God's creation by canceling their performances at Praise Wave. Musicians listen to their fans, so we need your help to let them know that it's wrong to support a company that deprives complex, emotional, and social orcas of everything that's natural and important to them!

Please ask Michael W. Smith, BeBe Winans, and The Clark Sisters to do the right thing and cancel their performances at SeaWorld—then post on their social media pages asking the same.

Michael W. Smith: Twitter and Facebook
BeBe Winans: Twitter and Facebook
The Clark Sisters: Facebook

The Life of Tilikum: Fear and Loathing, Deprivation and Death in the Aquatic Asylum. For 30 years, Tilikum has been committed to an asylum of despair and deprivation.

For years we have clung to a hope that once again he might feel the embrace of the living sea. We maintained hope that a shred of decency would arise within the cold corporate heart of SeaWorld and that they would grant Tilikum, the one gift he most desired and deserved. Freedom! That hope is now all but gone. Tilikum is dying.

The recent announcement by SeaWorld that Tilikum is nearing the end of his tragic life was spun with a major lie.

“Despite the best care available, like all aging animals, he battles chronic health issues that are taking a greater toll as he ages,” SeaWorld said on its website.

Tilikum is 35 years old who should be in the prime of his life. Orca males live an average of 70 years in the wild and females can surpass a century. SeaWorld wants us all to believe that Tilikum is dying a natural death from old age.

This statement is a deliberate lie crafted by the public relations team at SeaWorld. Tilikum’s life has been one of tragic abuse ever since he was torn from his family pod in 1981 at the age of two. As they hauled him from the water and brought him onboard, his pod were visibly disturbed. His mother followed in the wake of the fleeing boat and she continued to follow helplessly as her baby cried piteously until she could hear nothing more. The capture boat sped away leaving Tilikum’s family pod and mother behind. He would never see them again.

Tilikum’s Early Life
The baby orca was confined for a year at Hafnarfjörður Marine Zoo, near Reykjavík, Iceland along with two other baby Orcas, Nandu and Samoa before being transferred to Sealand of the Pacific outside of Victoria, British Columbia.

First forcibly separated from his mother followed by a forceful separation a year later from his two young companions who were later sold off to the Aquarama facility in Sao Paulo Brazil where Nandu died in 1988 at eight years of age. Samoa was resold to SeaWorld in Ohio and then shipped to Sea World San Antonio for breeding. She became the first Orca to die (March 14, 1992) at Sea World from birth complications caused by a fungal infection. She was 12 years old.

A young Orca in the sea is taken care of by its mother and the pod extremely well. Constant attention and parental instructions, surrounded by a love we can only imagine but a love that is real nonetheless. To be snatched from that security and a small tank must have been excruciatingly traumatic. This was followed by being taken completely out of the water, placed in a shipping container and flown halfway around the planet, far, far, away from the place nature had intended for him.

In Victoria, Tilikum was placed in a 100-by-50-foot pool only 35-feet deep, trained with food deprivation techniques and bullied by two older female Orcas, Haida and Nootka.
Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 6.50.14 PM
One of the reasons for the bullying, aside from the crowded conditions was that food was deprived from all three Orcas when Tilikum did not perform to the satisfaction of the trainers. Sealand also did not take into consideration that Tilikum was an Icelandic whale and unable to communicate with the two Pacific Northwest Orcas.

The Affect of Captivity on Tilikum
Forced to do eight shows a day, seven days a week, Tilikum developed stomach ulcers at a very young age.

Tilikum, along with Haida and Nootka marked a historical first with the killing of 20 years old Keltie Byrne on February 21, 1991 at Sealand of the Pacific. She was tossed between the three orcas until she drowned, the first human being ever documented to have been killed by Orcas.

I had visited the whales a few years earlier at Sealand of the Pacific and observed at the time that all three whales were severely stressed. Crowded, overworked, food deprived and physically abused. I remember remarking to Sealand Executive Director Angus Matthews that the whales could be potentially dangerous in such conditions. He replied that despite their names, an orca would never harm a human being intentionally. It had never happened he said and therefore they were confident that it would not happen. But nearly a decade of involuntary confinement after being traumatically removed from the security of his mother and pod, shipped to a foreign location with two dominant females that he could not communicate with, and subject to abuse by both Orcas and humans certainly present a psychological profile conducive to anger, frustration and violent behavior.

If this was a human being torn from the arms of its mother at an early age, placed in confinement as a baby, sent to a foreign land and forced to do routine labor while being bullied by fellow captives and deprived of food we would not be surprised if such a person displayed serious anti-social tendencies including psychopathic behavior.

In the view of Orca expert Ken Balcomb, “Tilikum is basically psychotic. He has been maintained in a situation where I think he is psychologically unrecoverable in terms of being a wild whale.”
20150706-USA-INV-D1-001-TILIKUM (c) 2015 Orca Research Trust
We will never know the circumstances that led to the death of the second human to be killed by Tilikum. Apparently 27-year old Daniel Dukes hid out in the park and voluntarily entered Tilikum’s pool during the night. He was found dead the next morning draped over the Orca’s back, dismembered and with his genitals ripped away.

With two human deaths, SeaWorld should have realized they were dealing with something highly unusual. There had never before been a case of an Orca killing a human being in captivity or in the wild. If ever there was a sign of severe mental and emotional disorders, Tilikum was a classic case.

In fact the behavior of Tilikum was incredibly divergent from everything we had learned about Orcas in the wild.
New Campaign Fires Up to Free SeaWorld’s Tilikum
During the summer of 1975, I jumped into the path of an oncoming pod of orcas near Bella Bella, British Columbia. I watched them rapidly approach. I watched as they dove and disappeared and I watched with a twinge of fear as the entire pod surfaced alongside me, so close that I grabbed the dorsal of one of the whales and suddenly found myself being pulled through the sea. I was riding a wild orca and it was awesome. A few minutes later the orca dove and I was left behind watching the pod move away from me. They could have easily killed me but did not do so. In the years since I have spent time with orcas in the wild in Washington and Alaska and in Antarctica. I have never known an orca to be aggressive towards a human. Why this is so remains a mystery but it is a well-observed, documented and indisputable fact.

The Mental and Dangerous Impact of Captivity 
Tilikum is an anomaly and, unfortunately, a very dangerous anomaly and I can only attribute this to Tilikum being emotionally and mentally disturbed, in other words – insane.

Despite this, the SeaWorld show went on and although she could not have imagined it herself at the time, Dawn Brancheau was now on death row with Tilikum.
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At 40, she was one of Sea World’s most experienced trainers when she was violently grabbed by the arm by Tilikum and pulled beneath the surface. Observations and testimony by numerous marine wildlife specialists back the theory that Tilikum was very much aware of what he was doing. The killing of Dawn Brancheau was a deliberate act of murder consistent with psychotic behavior. It must have been so surreal for the Sea World trainers in the days that followed to continue to feed and work with an animal that had just killed their colleague and friend.

Dawn’s death was the beginning of a full assault on Sea World. The dark underside of the industry was exposed and Pandora’s box was opened revealing the dangers, the abuse and the cruelty of the international dolphin trade. Trainers began to talk, and journalists and filmmakers were listening.

How Blackfish Changed Our Perception of Marine Captivity
The production and the release of the documentary film Blackfish finally revealed the dark secrets that SeaWorld’s well-financed public relations operations had so successfully kept from the public.

What has emerged is a portrait of an industry that captures and enslaves dolphins including orcas. Many animals have died during capture attempts and in the case of the smaller cetaceans, thousands have been deliberately slaughtered, like for example in the dolphin drives in Japan where entire pods of dolphins are driven into a bay, the prime specimens selected for dolphinarium display and the rejected members of the pod violently destroyed.

Dolphin slaughters in Japan fuel marine captivity.
Help Taiji’s Dolphins! Sea Shepherd Seeks Submissions for ‘From the Cove to Captivity’ Video Contest
The “lucky” ones that escape the knife are condemned to a shorter life of abuse, sensory deprivation, loneliness, insecurity, and alienation. During the 19th century asylums for the criminally insane and even the not so criminally insane were institutions that the general public knew little about. Behind guarded walls, humans were punished and deprived of food as a form of behavior modification. Electro-shock therapy and lobotomies were used with great frequency and the patients were primarily exploited like laboratory rats for the purpose of investigating, understanding and manipulation of human behavior. In some cases these institutions offered tours where for a price, members of the public could gawk at inmates restrained in strait jackets, chained to their beds or given electro shock therapy. Captives were sometimes marketed as entertainment like those poor individuals featured in freak shows.

The modern socially acceptable freak show is the aquatic asylum where for a price the public can gawk at one of the world’s most intelligent and strongest sentient beings and feel superior as the Orcas are forced to perform tricks for their amusement. It really is not much different than feeling superior while watching another human convulsing as electricity fries part of his brain. These monstrous institutions were gradually shut down but I remember participating in an anti-lobotomy demonstration on the Berkley campus in 1977, so it was not that long ago.

Such institutions of horror, pain, and death are not abolished overnight. It takes time, patience, courage and commitment to tear down such walls. We have been fighting to empty the tanks in aquatic asylums like Sea World for decades and just like the movement to tear down the asylums for humans, we have been ignored for many years. But once that formidable door is forced open, enlightenment quickly illuminates the consciousness of society and progressive change begins to happen.

Our years of battering at the doors of such places as SeaWorld with demonstrations, articles, petitions, and lawsuits weakened the fortress doors enough that when Blackfish was shown to the public it was like a battering ram of enlightenment. When I look back over the years, I see that we have made steady progress in bringing the abuses of these asylums to the eyes of the public.

The first captive Orca named Moby Doll was actually deliberately shot when it was captured for the Vancouver Aquarium back in 1964. The Vancouver Aquarium purchased a second Orca in 1967 named Skana. I came to know Skana quite well primarily because my biology professor was the wife of the curator of the Vancouver Aquarium, Dr. Murray Newman. In the early days of marine aquariums, not much thought was given to conservation. I still remember the Aquarium selling sperm whale teeth for $5 each that came from the whaling operations on Vancouver Island. When I spoke out against whaling to staff at the Aquarium they looked at me like I was crazy. There was not a shred of empathy for the animals they were displaying for profit.

So when Dr. Paul Spong was hired by the Aquarium, he became the first scientist to understand that Orcas were unlike any other animal he had ever studied. Spong made the very unorthodox announcement that Orcas were highly intelligent and very emotional cetaceans. This discovery led to his being fired from the Aquarium. It’s simply difficult to keep a sentient, self-aware, highly intelligent being captive if you accept that they have thoughts and emotions just like humans. Skana died at the age of 17 in 1980, but what she did in her short life was to inspire a small group of us to rally to the cause of the cetaceans and in 1975 we set forth on the very first expedition to challenge the whalers when we confronted the whaling fleet of the Soviet Union in the Pacific.

The aquatic asylums that for decades have managed to hide the truth of their abuses are now doing everything they can, to do damage control, but it will not work. The battering will continue relentlessly now and with greatly increased support and strength.

What Can Be Done for Those After Tilikum?
We won’t be able to save Tilikum and many of the other abused inmates of the aquatic asylums but we do have an ever growing movement that will prevent new victims being snatched from their families and committed to the horrors that places like Sea World represent.

It’s been a long time since Skana was captured off British Columbia and Tilikum was torn from his mother’s side off Iceland. It’s much more difficult now to do live captures and even breeding operations have been discouraged like the recent decision of the California Coastal Commission to oppose the Sea World’s breeding program in San Diego. Most recently, SeaWorld announced the end of all captive breeding in their parks.

The movement to free captive Orcas and other dolphin species gets stronger every year. But there is still much to do before we can say we have delivered justice for Tilikum and the hundreds of Orcas that have been enslaved and killed simply to entertain humans for profit.

The tanks must be emptied and if possible the captives released, at least to large open sea pens where they will not be forced to perform for the amusement of human beings. Sea World is a façade, pretending to be educational, pretending to care for the intelligent sentient creatures their facilities holds captive. Humanity does not need Sea World or these other aquatic Asylums anymore. We have evolved as a society and we need to recognize that there is an alternative to Sea World and that alternative is the real sea world, the place where Orcas and dolphins are free to be what they are, free to roam the sea with their own kind, free to communicate without their voices rebounding from concrete walls, free to not be tormented and not sexually molested by being masturbated by humans to harvest their sperm, freed from the abusive slavery that we have subjected them to for so many decades.

Like the 19th century asylums for insane humans, these aquatic asylums need to be closed and their facilities abandoned so that only the haunting cries of Orcas will echo from tanks drained of water amidst the ruins of something that we are coming to realize has brought ignoble shame to our entire species. Lead image source: Creative Commons

Adopt a Whale!

Coral - Male Humpback Whale

Deluxe Adoption

You'll receive through the mail a personalized certificate with a photograph, biography and family tree of the adopted whale, fascinating facts and figures about humpback whales, a map of the migratory path of the humpback whale you adopted, a window decal/sticker, monthly updates and recent WDC newsletters including updates on where the adopted whale has been seen and how this adoption is helping to save whales and dolphins worldwide. PLUS an exciting and educational DVD featuring WDC adoptable humpback whales.

Standard Adoption

You'll receive through the mail a personalized certificate with a photograph, biography and family tree of the adopted whale, fascinating facts and figures about humpback whales, a map of the migratory path of the humpback whale you adopted, a window decal/sticker, monthly updates and recent WDC newsletters including updates on where the adopted whale has been seen and how this adoption is helping to save whales and dolphins worldwide.

Basic (Electronic) Adoption

You'll receive through e-mail a certificate of adoption and a photograph of the adopted whale. As well as fascinating facts and figures about humpback whales.