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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Killer Whales Are Meant To Be Free

I recently finished reading the new book Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity, a great book documenting the reality of orcas in captivity, including many behind-the-scenes insights from former trainers. It inspired me to finish a video project that I've had on my mind to do for quite some time.

Young Monika was already quite into killer whales, and when I visited my grandfather in southern California in the late 90s I had my parents drop me off for a day at SeaWorld San Diego. I didn't attend any of the killer whale shows or see hardly any of the exhibits, but spent almost the entire day sitting right next to the killer whale enclosures, with the only break being to visit the bottlenose dolphins. I had a video camera in hand, and filmed several hours of footage. While I was excited to be that close to an orca, even at that age something about captivity didn't sit quite right with me, and it was the last time I would visit a marine aquarium that had killer whales as part of their collection. A couple years later, I would see killer whales in the wild for the first time, an event that altered the course of my life.

This short video contrasts the life of captive and wild orcas using some of that footage from my visit to SeaWorld alternating with clips from more recent years showing the Southern Residents, arguably the population of killer whales that was hit hardest by the marine capture era. Take a look, and please feel free to share if you are so inclined:


Robyn said...

Thank you for sharing, Monika. I have always been deeply troubled by the continued use of orcas for profit in aquariums. Your video is such a stark demonstration of how the practice of keeping orcas captive is cruel and inhumane.

Lancs and Lakes Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

The most obvious thing is the space (or lack of it) the Salish Sea is probably only a small body of water but it is immense compared to the tiny pool.
Is the animal @ 2.50 asleep bored witless? And does anyone know if wild orcas sleep like that?

keep up the good work



Monika said...

Dave - Bored out of its mind, I imagine. Orcas don't sleep like that, but rather continue to swim and surface slowly with family members in close contact when they rest, probably like other dolphins in that they only rest half their brain at a time.

Rainsong said...

Thank you so much Monika! Thank you for advanced permission to share this...I do not reach many people but those that I do should see this.

I was a school girl when I was out fishing with my dad and grandfather in a small aluminum boat off of Whidbey Island where my dad grew up. Suddenly my dad is yelling for us to reel-in. He did not want to lose gear or hurt the orcas that were suddenly everywhere. My dad assured me that despite their name they were not going to hurt us or the boat and we must not harm them in anyway. The fish were first for them. (and there would be no bites after the Orca went through but what a show!)

That evening at Mukilteo, sitting in the car watching the water the Orca's were suddenly everywhere (I have not seen them off of Mukilteo since). But who were those guys in boats buzzing around harassing them? I remember the irritation in my dad’s voice because of those guys. The next day the big news story was about the capture of a pod of orca and the sale of many members. My parents were so angry. There was one whale called Namu (Sp?) in Seattle. He died at least three times before the pen was dismantled. He was three different whales with the same name, it was said that he was happy but wanted to breed so he would try to escape and get caught in the nets. I think now we know that it was not a sexual urge but family love.

I do not remember the name of "the guy" who made so much money that night, nor do I want to remember, but I do remember the joy of watching the free whales who gave such a show without hurting me in the little outboard fishing boat....followed by the sick feeling that they had been captured for profit the next day.

Too long, I know. But I love the Orca who seem to be less free even in the wild since that horrible day.

Monika said...

Rainsong - Thanks so much for sharing this. Not too long at all! Sounds like a couple of pretty amazing things you witnessed. I would love to hear more about it for a piece I'm writing - would you send me an e-mail if you get a chance?