SeaWorld has announced plans to expand their killer whale habitats in select parks and their decision to fund new programs to support the natural habitats of whales in the wild - does this mean that they have had to accept claims made that their current tanks are not suitable for the whales?
The first upgrade will be to their San Diego facility; with the construction of a 40 foot viewing tank for members of the public to experience seeing the whales underwater. Jim Atchison, CEO and President of SeaWorld Entertainment said the public will be able to walk alongside the whales as if they were at the shore and watch them interact at the depths found in the ocean – what nonsense. I have been fortunate enough to spend time in both Iceland and Vancouver Island seeing these magnificent whales in the wild, and nothing can ever compare to seeing these majestic marine mammals in their natural environment. No matter how large a constructed tank or lagoon may be in a marine park – it is not the ocean and can never replicate the life these animals enjoy in the wild.
We have to ask ourselves, with so much criticism over their tanks in the past why is SeaWorld now announcing these new plans and support for conservation projects? With SeaWorld shares in the decline and the backlash from publicity following 'Blackfish', is this their attempt to enhance the company image by highlighting the supposed importance of the work they are doing to the paying public - generating a “feel good factor” about the brand. SeaWorld also states that 'The Blue World Project' will donate USD$10 million in match funds to combat threats killer whales face in the wild. Whatever the reason, their whales will still be in captivity, bred for profit with any offspring facing the possibility of being transported to SeaWorlds' other theme parks.
The new whale habitat at San Diego will take around 3-4 years to complete. In that time, how many whales will perhaps die and also how many calves will have been born there, and what will their future hold. SeaWorld commented recently that they plan to expand into Russia – will they send some of their whales there I wonder - only time will tell.
17 August 2014
The sad news is that yet another orca has been artificially inseminated at SeaWorld and the calf is anticipated to be born at the SeaWorld San Diego sometime in December. This is especially sad and disappointing due to the orca, Kalia, being only nine years old - far younger than an orca would naturally give birth in the wild. Sadly though, we are not surprised as SeaWorld routinely breeds its female orcas way too young. Another orca named Katina first became pregnant at SeaWorld San Diego at only six years old. Unbelievably, as the young Kalia prepared to give birth to her first calf, it is rumoured that she and her own mother, Katsaka, will be separated soon, as she is scheduled to be transported to SeaWorld in San Antonio. Kalia is said to have mated last summer with the park’s oldest male orca, Ulises but was also artificially inseminated with his sperm to ensure the pregnancy was successful.
29 April 2014
I recently attended the 2-day WhaleFest 2014 event in Brighton, UK – currently the worlds’ biggest celebration of whales and dolphins. This was a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues from around the globe that we work with on a daily basis but rarely have the opportunity to meet up with in person; I also met some colleagues for the first time which is always a delight. The festival was officially opened by Gok Wan, and both days were overflowing with talks on cetacean issues; ranging from where to see dolphins and whales around our shores, the keeping of these animals in captivity to the very distressing and urgent plight of the 50 remaining Maui’s dolphins off the coast of the North Island in New Zealand – this was especially harrowing as, if something is not done to protect this species, they will almost certainly become extinct – and that would be a disaster. There were also many fun activities for children to be involved with; from a fantastic inflatable humpback whale which you could actually go inside to face painting, drawing and dolphin sculpting. There were artwork exhibitions showcasing some amazing talent, amongst them Phil Coles, who has been a long-time supporter of the Marine Connection’s work. There was a special showing of Blackfish with the opportunity to ask questions from several of the contributors including Dr Naomi Rose and Sam Berg. The festival passed in a blur and was over too soon; but reminded each and every one visiting just why dolphins, whales and our oceans are so special, so vital to the future survival of our planet and why they deserve our protection.
19 March 2014
I write this with a very heavy heart, the drive hunts in Japan continue to supply the horrendous entertainment trade and recently I was horrified when the latest removal of dolphins from the cove in Taiji, included an albino dolphin calf. From the outset this dolphin was destined for captivity, given the appetite that the Japanese have for all things unusual/cute, that was never in question that this animal would probably be sold into the captivity overseas or retained in Japan which was proven to be the case, as the young calf is now alone in a pool at Taiji's Whale Museum. So, how can we stop the hunts - boycotts are not the answer for that only damages the millions of innocent Japanese traders who, we are sure, would not support these hunts. The only answer is to expose this ongoing horror and the damage this causes not only to the individual animals involved, but to the wild population of dolphins (and whales) which frequent Japanese waters. We also need to expose the facilities around the world that purchase dolphins from these hunts and turn a blind eye to how the animals are obtained. Working together with colleagues and concerned members of the public around the world we can do this. We will not give up until the seas around Taiji are safe for all cetaceans - free from capture, free from harm and free from fear.