SeaWorld’s killer whale filmed repeatedly bashing into gate


(Video via Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project)
This recent video is disturbing, and raises the question of what SeaWorld plans to do with their six orcas that are housed at an amusement park in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa.
Four of the orcas were sent to the park (Loro Parque) on a breeding loan, the fifth was born there, and the sixth, a young female named Morgan, was rescued and kept in captivity despite international protest. Although not officially confirmed, it is believed to be Morgan in the video above.
SeaWorld is undergoing rapid and significant change, and deserves time to demonstrate their sincerity and commitment to their avowed promise to improve life for the captive whales. Yet if they really do have their priorities straight, unlike the previous leaders (Orca Morgan’s fate follows the golden rule – those who have the gold make the rules), they will take action for their whales at Loro Parque and not just the orcas on American soil.
The whales in Loro Parque might be out of sight, but they are not out of mind.
The Free Morgan Foundation spearheads an effort to grant Morgan freedom under European law and continues to monitor Morgan and the other whales at Loro Parque. Their reports are grim and underscore the need for SeaWorld to take the reins and do something about the conditions at that park:

(Executive Summary)
Morgan was to be held at Loro Parque as an interim measure whilst the legality of her continued captivity was debated. The main consideration stated as to why she was sent to this facility, despite data to show otherwise, was so she could socialise with other orca.
Since her transfer she has been brutally and continually attacked and is subjected to excessive sexual pressure from a male orca who she is often locked into the same tank with.
The author observed Morgan for 77 hours and 16 minutes, over eight days (spread over a 24 day period). During that time-fame, an unprecedented 91 aggression events were documented, all involving Morgan. A similar study, looking at aggression in captive orca (observing them for 1,872 hours, i.e., 78 days) recorded only eight aggressive episodes.
Morgan, was attacked, on average, more than once an hour. The other study recorded an aggressive episode only once every 234 hours.
Put another way, Morgan is over than 100 times more like likely to be attacked at Loro Parque than the orca in the other study. Since her arrival at Loro Parque, Morgan has been inflicted with more than 320 puncture and bite marks (all documented by photographs).
This does not include the damage she has self-inflicted from abnormal and repetitive behaviours such as banging her head on the concrete tanks.
Additionally, Morgan is wearing her teeth down from chewing on the concrete. Teeth wear in captive orca often leads to infections. These abnormal behaviours are a direct result of boredom from being held in a featureless environment in which she is provided little if any stimulation.
There is a clear lack of empathy for this animal from the trainers, who ignore her calls for attention and her cries for help and disregard aggressive attacks on her by the other animals, even when they are within meters of these events when they occur. (From Report on the Physical & Behavioural Status of Morgan, the Wild-Born Orca held in Captivity, at Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain).

Morgan has been documented repeatedly bashing her head against the side of the gate opening mechanism.  (Freemorgan.nl)
Morgan has been documented repeatedly bashing her head against the side of the gate opening mechanism. (Freemorgan.nl)

Two of our urban killer whales have died, including Nigel from L-pod

Nigel (L 95). Photo by Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research.
Nigel (L 95). Photo by Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research.

20 year old Nigel (L 95) and a two week old female calf were found a week apart in British Columbia, Canada. They both belonged to the Southern Resident Killer Whale clan. The necropsy (animal autopsy) reports are inconclusive at this point.
Nigel was tagged for a NOAA study, you can read about it here. The tag broke off, leaving parts in his dorsal fin (noted in the report below) but researchers found the information gained useful in learning where the Southern Resident orcas spend the winter.
Fisheries and Ocean Canada necropsy report:

A male killer whale was found floating dead near Esperanza Inlet, B.C. on March 30th, 2016. A necropsy was performed on April 1st, 2016, to determine the cause of the animal’s death.
This animal was identified as L95, an approximately 20 year old Southern Resident killer whale, via a scar from a satellite tag deployed on the whale by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in February 2016.
The Southern Resident population is listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act in Canada.
No clear cause of death was apparent in the initial necropsy. Results include:

  • advanced decomposition,
  • fair to moderate body condition,
  • tag implant site at the base of the dorsal fin. Gross dissection and X-rays of the tag site indicated that the tag petals were left behind when the tag detached, but revealed no apparent localized or tracking inflammation.
  • diffuse peritonitis (inflammation of the membrane that lines the inner abdominal wall and covers the abdominal organs) with pronounced spleen enlargement, and
  • perforation of the caudal abdomen (near the posterior end) and herniated loops of intestine attributed to decomposition and bloat.

DFO can also confirm that the dead killer whale calf found near Sooke, BC on March 23rd, 2016 has been ID’d by the Vancouver Aquarium genetics team as a southern resident.
The female calf was less than 2 weeks of age and had not yet been categorized.
Further analysis will be done to determine which pod the calf belonged to. A necropsy was performed on March 25th, 2016.
The initial/gross necropsy results did not indicate a cause of death, but given the young age of the animal, a birthing complication is suspected.
Analysis of tissue and blood samples is underway for both animals, and results will be provided to DFO in the final necropsy reports in 3-4 weeks.
The results of these necropsies will feed into a growing body of knowledge to assist in assessing the threats to Southern Resident killer whales from a population health perspective. This data allows us to look at trends, pathogens, or other indicators that may affect their life histories.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada would like to acknowledge the efforts and collaboration from the BC Ministry of Agriculture (and in particular, Drs Stephen Raverty and Heindrich Snyman, Veterinary Pathologists who performed the necropsy exams), Vancouver Aquarium staff for their DNA sequencing, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), not to mention numerous dedicated DFO staff and biologists.
For more information on NOAA’s tagging program, please go to: https://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/divisions/cb/ecosystem/marinemammal/satellite_tagging/faq.cfm
For more information on Southern Resident killer whales: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/species-especes/profiles-profils/killerWhalesouth-PAC-NE-epaulardsud-eng.html

SeaWorld keeps its word; Landmark legislation to help captive whales is one step closer in California

Southern Resident orcas J54 and mother, J28. Photo by Dave Ellifrit.
(Southern Resident orcas J54 and mother, J28. Photo by Dave Ellifrit).

In an unprecedented move, today the California Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife committee voted twelve to one in support of legislation what will permanently ban the breeding of captive orcas in California.
AB 2305 will not only prohibit the breeding of captive orcas, it will allow only educational displays of the existing animals.  Dr. Naomi Rose from the Animal Welfare Institute, former SeaWorld orca trainer John Hargrove (featured in Blackfish) and Kim Ventre from Voice of the Orcas as well as many others spoke in support. The bill was presented by Assemblyman Richard Bloom.
Assembly bill AB will make sure that SeaWorld's pledge to stop breeding killer whales will also apply to any other companies that may develop in the future.
Assembly bill AB 2305 will make sure that SeaWorld’s pledge to stop breeding killer whales will also apply to any other companies in California, ensuring that SeaWorld’s promise won’t come back to bite them if a competing park decided to throw their hat in the ring. To that end, this legislation is actually good for SeaWorld – if they can’t breed, neither can anyone else if the bill makes all the way through the Senate.

SeaWorld’s decision to stop breeding killer whales was admittedly difficult, but today they showed their commitment to follow through by not fighting the proposed legislation in California to ban orca breeding in captivity.

SeaWorld was represented by Pete Montgomery who testified that SeaWorld has no position on the bill, and underscored SeaWorld’s recent pledge to stop breeding killer whales and to make other significant changes in the care and maintenance of marine mammals.
SeaWorld’s CEO, Joel Manby, openly attributed their decision in part to the inevitability of local state legislation that would force them to stop breeding the whales anyway.
Last month the San Diego Union Tribune wrote:

While the tide of public opinion concerning orcas clearly was turning, fueled in part by the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” Manby said, were legislative efforts in California to outlaw captive breeding. He cited a California Coastal Commission decision that would require SeaWorld to end the breeding of killer whales if it wanted to expand its orca tanks, a project that it has since abandoned.

“I’m quite certain legislation in California would come against us,” he said. “Once something is illegal and moved east, it would be very difficult to change that trend so we decided we needed to get ahead of this because as you know, SeaWorld has an incredible tale to tell, but the orca issue is a barrier between our story and a growing audience.”

The presentation and discussion of the bill was recorded by Haze Sommer, who has shared it here:

Baby seals – adorable, helpless, and destined to die

UPDATE 4/10: A list of tweets can be found HERE.

It seems that Canada is not all maple syrup after all; the government supported baby seal slaughter is set to resume on April 10th, with a quota set just under a half a million seal pups.

While the barbaric practice is supposedly market driven by demand for the seal skins, the truth is that the Canadian government spends millions more in regulating the hunt than is generated in income. (TakePart.com).

Part of the expense is in insuring the “humaneness” of the hunt – the following text is taken from those regulations; if you are not convinced that there is anything humane or logical about the seal hunt, please join in Tweeting #sealhunt on April 10th or consider signing this petition. More information can be found at the Humane Society International and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
The ‘humane’ techniques:
(1.1) No person shall use a club or hakapik to strike a seal older than one year unless the seal has been shot with a firearm.

Baby harp seal. (allposters.com)
Baby harp seal. (allposters.com) 400,000 will be slaughtered.

(2) Every person who strikes a seal with a club or hakapik shall strike the seal on the top of the cranium until it has been crushed and shall immediately palpate the cranium to confirm that it has been crushed.

Baby hooded seal. (Wikipedia)
Baby hooded seal. (Wikipedia) 8,200 will be killed.

(3) If a firearm is used to fish for a seal, the person who shoots the seal or retrieves it shall palpate the cranium as soon as possible after it is shot to confirm that the cranium has been crushed.

baby gray seal. (Zoochat)
baby gray seal. (Zoochat)  60,000 are to be slaughtered.

(4) Every person who palpates the cranium of a seal and determines that the cranium is not crushed shall immediately strike the seal with a club or hakapik on the top of its cranium until the cranium has been crushed.

article-2126022-127D0092000005DC-810_964x639 dailymail.co.uk
 No person shall skin a seal until the cranium has been crushed and at least one minute has elapsed after the two axillary arteries of the seal located beneath its front flippers have been severed to bleed the seal.

99249-004-6C7A1BA3 hooded seal britannica
Britannica.org

 (1) No person shall fish for seals, for personal or commercial use, in any of Sealing Areas 4 to 33 except with
(a) a round club made of hardwood that measures not less than 60 cm and not more than 1 m in length and that, for at least half of its length, beginning at one end, measures not less than 5 cm and not more than 7.6 cm in diameter;
Onekind.org
Onekind.org

(b) an instrument known as a hakapik, consisting of a metal ferrule that weighs at least 340 g with a slightly bent spike not more than 14 cm in length on one side of the ferrule and a blunt projection not more than 1.3 cm in length on the opposite side of the ferrule and that is attached to a wooden handle that measures not less than 105 cm and not more than 153 cm in length and not less than 3 cm and not more than 5.1 cm in diameter;
Photo credit: Deborah Albert
Photo credit: Deborah Albert

(c) a rifle and bullets that are not full metal-jacketed that produce a muzzle velocity of not less than 1,800 feet per second and a muzzle energy of not less than 1,100 foot pounds; or
(d) a shotgun of not less than 20 gauge and rifled slugs.