SeaWorld Has Possession of the Youngest Stranded Pilot Whale – Not a Surprise

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This bland announcement came yesterday:

Pilot whale calf moved from Fla. Keys to Orlando

The Associated Press
KEY LARGO, Fla. – A pilot whale calf that stranded May 5 off the lower Florida Keys has recovered and is being transported from a Keys-based marine mammal rehabilitation facility to Orlando.
The 600-pound, 9-foot-long female was placed in a water-filled transport unit Friday night and loaded into a refrigerated truck for the almost 300-mile trip from the Marine Mammal Conservancy to SeaWorld. It is expected to arrive Saturday morning.
Marine mammal experts and a veterinarian are accompanying the whale during the trip.
Federal officials say the calf cannot be released because it is too young to survive in the wild without its mother and requires managed care.

One pilot whale remains at the conservancy. Officials say it is still in critical condition but showing signs of improvement.

What does this really mean? It means that SeaWorld has possibly succeeded in obtaining a young female pilot whale for their breeding/entertainment programs at the expense of countless unpaid volunteers.  Day after day, hour after hour, volunteer after volunteer dedicated themselves to saving this whale.  They took shifts around the clock, holding her at the surface while the pilot whale regained strength.(For background on this, see SeaWorld Has a Vested Interest in Helping Stranded Whales and Dolphins )

Creative Commons Photo

When it was announced a few days ago that SeaWorld was ready to open their new ‘rehabilitation facility’ in the coming weeks , it seemed inevitable that the amusement park would soon take the surviving stranded pilot whales as their first occupants.  But not so.
They only took one of the whales, the healthiest one.

In a move no doubt calculated to avoid protest by activists, the whale was quietly moved yesterday by truck to the Orlando park.  If the rehab facility is not ready, this means that SeaWorld’s veterinarians have determined that the young pilot whale is healthy enough to join their circus – it is required by law that any facility taking rescued marine mammals place them on exhibit – and visitors will soon be able to see her, depending upon SeaWorld’s quarantine procedures.
On the other hand, if the rehab center is open and ready for business and they are putting the whale there, why did they leave the sicker one behind?

The most benevolent concept is that SeaWorld has actually thought through what is best for the whales, knows that separating them is liable to stress the animals, and so decided to move the healthy one in advance of moving the sicker one. The younger whale is more likely to weather the move and adapt to the new environment, and then the more fragile one will have an easier time. One can only hope.
Of course SeaWorld may claim that the one left behind is too sick to move – but then why take away her companion?

Another SeaWorld Hospital ( from their tour, on Family Vacations)

How will we know? While the amusement park must exhibit healthy rescued whales, it is prohibited for exhibiting ones that are being rehabilitated.
In a quiet corner of the park, surrounded by 8 foot walls topped with barbed wire, SeaWorld is free to conduct whatever procedures they can justify on any rescued marine mammal.

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