Tag Archives: Luna

Saving the lonely orca calf, Alexandra: What are her options? (Videos)

An unprecedented effort is underway to return illegally caught whales to the wild in the far northwest Pacific Ocean, but what about the one who just won’t leave? While the four other orcas released into the ocean seem to have adapted to life in the wild, Alexandra has chosen to hang out with the fishermen who provide her with salmon.

[Video originally posted on the Russian Orcas Facebook page.]

Why the whales are being freed

The heartbreaking photos of nearly 100 whales suffering in iced-over pens off the southern coast of Russia changed the trajectory of their lives and set them on a path to freedom.
It was public knowledge that 12 orca calves and around 90 belugas had been illegally captured and were being warehoused in marginal conditions, but it never really hit home until the world saw the pictures. The sight of frostbitten calves huddled together for warmth in their nearly frozen-over pool galvanized a response, even from those who approve of the captive display of whales and dolphins.

The conditions in captivity. Photo Credit: mmrescue.ru/news/

The public outcry that resulted from the images, teamed with the expense of maintaining the whales and the illegality of the captures, tipped the balance in favor of releasing the orcas and belugas. It was a momentous decision, never before attempted.
Five of the ten orcas (two others mysteriously disappeared while in captivity) have been returned to the ocean, with mixed results. At this point, all are believed to have survived. The first two, released at the end of June, seem to have adapted back to life in the wild. Of the last three, the two older calves have been tracked about 100 miles away from the release site.
Alexandra, only two or three years old, has found friends among the fishermen where she was released. And that could be a problem when winter sets in.

Timeline

Alexandra and the other calves are often referred to as the “Srednyaya orcas” because they were held captive there, in the Sea of Japan, but they originated far to the north in the Sea of Okhotsk. Their release site is in the Gulf of Sakhalin (in the Sea of Okhotsk).

Capture and release sites. Image credit: timesUK.co

Genetic tests show that Alexandra is a type of orca that normally hunts marine mammals (variously known as transients, Biggs, or T-type). From Russian Orcas:

Orcas in Srednyaya Bay are mammal-eaters!
We confirm that all 10 orcas kept in Srednyaya Bay belong to the North Pacific mammal-eating ecotype, also called ‘transients’ or ‘Bigg’s killer whales’ in Canada and the US, and T-type killer whales in Russia.
This was determined by FEROP experts through sequencing their mitochondrial DNA control region haplotype.

Alexandra is trained to accept fish even though it’s not her normal diet. If she continues to be fed she will have a chance of surviving long enough to be reunited with her family.

What should happen now to assure Alexandra’s successful assimilation into the natural world?

Probably the best option is to follow the recommendations of scientists for her to continue to be fed until the next group of orca calves is transported to that area for release. The whole group will need time to bond with each other before being freed. It’s likely that the older calves know how to hunt the prey they evolved to eat, and together the group may successfully readapt to the wild.
A second option is that by using genetic tests and recorded vocalizations scientists can manage to identify and locate her family. This is not a simple task, but it has been done before – a lost orca was matched using those methods in the Netherlands – although that case is still tied up in the courts and she has remained in captivity in Loro Parque, Spain.

[hdnfactbox title=”Orcas: Black and White Gold”]  The orcas were captured to be sold to aquariums and amusement parks in China and other countries.

Each orca calf has a market value of 5 – 6 million dollars US.

The whales were caught illegally – the permits were for education and research, not display.

Over 20 biologists, philanthropists, and conservationists signed a letter to President Putin requesting the release of the whales, and an online petition garnered over a million signatures.

[/hdnfactbox]

 
It is political will, driven largely by popular opinion, that can make a difference for Alexandra.
The expense of even attempting to locate Alexandra’s family may be prohibitive but the knowledge gained about the local orca populations would justify the effort even if no match is found.
There is a possibility that she was taken so young that she will still prefer to hang out and get fed, but that can be dangerous for her as well.
In 2001 L 98 (Luna), a lost calf from the Southern Resident orcas won the hearts of everyone who knew his story ( This enchantingly adorable wild killer whale calf befriended and pranked people for years. (Video)  ), but the politics of the time meant that no effort was mounted to return him to his family before his untimely death.
This charming film was made about Luna’s life and the people who loved the merry prankster:

There’s hope for a better outcome for Alexandra, as more is learned with each release. Also, because unlike Luna she is trained to accept food as a reward for her behavior she may be able to live free and friendly.
One way or the other, we’ll watch her story unfold.

[hdnfactbox title=”Beluga Whales; Canaries of the Sea”]

Belugas are known as the “canaries of the sea” because they produce many different sounds, including whistles, squeals, moos, chirps, and clicks. They rely on their hearing and ability to echolocate, using sound to navigate and hunt for prey. Belugas also have sharp vision both in and out of water.

Beluga whales have a varied diet consisting of octopus, squid, crabs, shrimp, clams, snails, and sandworms. They also eat a variety of fishes, including salmon, cod, sole, herring, smelt, and flounder. (NOAA)[/hdnfactbox]

Beluga whale. Photo Credit: NOAA

Orca whales’ amazing ability to imitate people, each other, and in Luna’s case a boat motor (video)


Even though the young orca in the video above is likely being cued and rewarded for imitating people, it shows the whales’ remarkable similarity to humans in that the orcas possess the ability to copy what they observe –  in this case, the behavior of another species (humans) behind a glass barrier where the whales are not even able to use their full senses.  Their phenomenal sound perception is useless to them in this visual task.

Read more about Luna
Scientists acknowledge that this ability most likely contributes to their development of different cultures in the wild throughout the world:

Experimental evidence for action imitation in killer whales (Orcinus orca)

Comparative experimental studies of imitative learning have focused mainly on primates and birds. However, cetaceans are promising candidates to display imitative learning as they have evolved in socioecological settings that have selected for large brains, complex sociality, and coordinated predatory tactics. Here we tested imitative learning in killer whales, Orcinus orca. We used a ‘do-as-other-does’ paradigm in which 3 subjects witnessed a conspecific demonstrator’s performance that included 15 familiar and 4 novel behaviours. The three subjects (1) learned the copy command signal ‘Do that’ very quickly, that is, 20 trials on average; (2) copied 100 % of the demonstrator’s familiar and novel actions; (3) achieved full matches in the first attempt for 8–13 familiar behaviours (out of 15) and for the 2 novel behaviours (out of 2) in one subject; and (4) took no longer than 8 trials to accurately copy any familiar behaviour, and no longer than 16 trials to copy any novel behaviour. This study provides experimental evidence for body imitation, including production imitation, in killer whales that is comparable to that observed in dolphins tested under similar conditions. These findings suggest that imitative learning may underpin some of the group-specific traditions reported in killer whales in the field.

 
But what about in captivity? Do the orcas have an opportunity to learn by observing each other? At Seaworld, San Diego, the orcas have a hobby of hunting birds by baiting them with fish – at least three different whales do this – did they learn from each other?


If the orcas do learn this hunting technique from each other, what other behaviors do they learn, unperceived by people?
Dr. Ken Norris, a pioneer in the study of marine mammals, often speculated on how whales and dolphins might use their sonar to look into each others bodies and therefore be able to observe subtle physical cues that we can’t see. (Personal communication).
Ultimately, this ability to imitate is another reason why captivity fails these whales – a young whale who learns a language of behavior and sound in one park probably finds it worthless when moved to another, perpetuating the cycle of aggression.
And who knows what they teach each other about people, other than the wild whales that are taught not to harm us.

This enchantingly adorable wild killer whale calf befriended and pranked people for years. (Video)


When Fisheries tried to lure Luna into a netted pen, people watched him push the boat into the pen instead.
On its surface, Luna’s story is about an impish lost killer whale and the people who cared deeply about his welfare, yet the deeper message it delivers is that we can – and maybe should – have an entirely different relationship with the social and intelligent animals that share our world.
He was a whale who showed us that he ‘got’ us, who found eye contact with us invaluable and refused the dead fish (along with some snacks and fruit) offered to him:

Was Luna fed by humans when he lived in Nootka Sound?

People sure tried to give him goodies. They threw him chocolate and oranges. Even vegetables. He spit out anything he couldn’t play with.
Fisherman would sometimes toss Luna dead fish from their fishing lines, and he’d carry them around, sticking out the side of his mouth like cigars. But he didn’t seem to eat them. He was wild, and he clearly preferred hunting for live fish.
That’s what made his efforts to make contact with us so unusual. It wasn’t for food, so why did he do it? The only answer that seems to make sense is that without his family around he was, in some way different but perhaps in some way the same as us, lonely. Somehow maybe he thought we could be friends. And a lot of people thought the same thing. The Whale

Groups and individuals clashed or coalesced in an effort to do the right thing for the lost young whale, and government officials tried their best to do what they thought was right as they weighed risks for everyone.
The more Luna was ignored the more he amused himself with boats and seaplanes or whatever else caught his attention, and by time the government decided to net him and transport him back to his home waters he seemed to think it was a game.

 
In the years since Luna came to live and play among the people in Nootka Sound, his whole clan – the Southern Resident orcas – has struggled to survive. Recently Crewser (L 92) disappeared, and the Center for Whale Research now reports that four-year-old Scarlet (J 50) is very thin and may not survive. Their situation is growing desperate.
We’re running out of time to help these precious whales, and if they abandon the region or go extinct they will take their culture with them, a culture that includes an interest in the humans that share their waterways.
The video below recounts Luna’s adventures, and was made by The Whale filmmakers prior to the final version. (25 minutes).

 


[hdnfactbox title=”More About Luna”]
September 19, 1999: Luna is first seen with his mother, Splash (L 67) only hours after being born and is given the number L 98.
In a highly unusual situation, Luna is then seen with Kiska (K 18) who had recently given birth to a stillborn, and for a period of weeks alternates between the two females, possibly nursed by both. It is unknown if this situation is related to his eventually becoming lost, since K pod and L pod don’t always forage together. (Center for Whale Research).
 In 2001: Luna failed to return with his family and is thought to have died. A lone orca calf is discovered in Nootka Sound, and is identified as Luna, although this isn’t publicly announced.

Risso’s Dolphins – The Gray “Blackfish” Who Are Killed by Ignorance for Greed

Risso's dolphin with Milton Santini, who caught the dolphins used in Flipper.
Risso’s dolphin with Milton Santini (right), who caught the dolphins used in Flipper.

 
Risso's dolphins are closely related to pilot whales and other "blackfish".
Risso’s dolphins are closely related to pilot whales and other “blackfish”.

Like orcas and other blackfish species, Risso’s dolphins are hunted for captivity and out of fear. Just as killer whales were shot by fishermen for taking a few salmon from their nets, Risso’s dolphins (closely related to pilot whales) are destroyed annually in large part because they are mistakenly seen as competitors for dwindling squid supplies in Japan.
Cute is about the best word to describe the appearance of these dolphins – their heavily scarred skin was historically thought to be the result of clashes with pod mates, but now more consideration is given to the fact that the scarring is also to battles with squid, such as the fearsome Humboldt squid.
Journalist Tim Zimmermann’s description of these large predatory squid is frightening, and it is easy to see how these squids would leave their mark on the dolphins:

Squid beak. (Biolab)
Squid beak. (Biolab)

…a powerful, outsize squid that features eight snakelike arms lined with suckers full of nasty little teeth, a razor-sharp beak that can rapidly rip flesh into bite-size chunks, and an unrelenting hunger. It’s called the Humboldt, or jumbo, squid, and it’s not the sort of calamari you’re used to forking off your dinner plate. This squid grows to seven feet or more and perhaps a couple hundred pounds. It has a rep as the outlaw biker of the marine world: intelligent and opportunistic, a stone-cold cannibal willing to attack divers with a seemingly deliberate hostility.
…”They have huge brains for their body size, much larger than most invertebrates,” says [biology professor at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station William Gilly]. “They might be as smart as a dog.”

 

Take away the top predators – Risso’s dolphins among them – and the ruthless, cooperative, intelligent invertebrates are likely to fill the niche once occupied by marine mammals, possibly decimating fish (and small dolphin) populations. In place of friendly dolphins eager to share the waves, our oceans would be filled with a species that would just as soon kill us, instead of saving us as dolphins are known to do.
One famous Risso’s dolphin, named Pelorus Jack, even guided ships through treacherous waters for 20 years.

Yet these dolphins are ruthlessly hunted by Japanese fishermen – not for their meat – but because the fishermen have gotten a wrong idea stuck in their heads. They see the dolphins and whales as competitors for fish and small squid.
From Save Japan Dolphins:

During a meeting with the Taiji fishermen in January 2004, the fishermen told us that they do not only hunt dolphins for their meat or for sale to the dolphinarium industry. In their own words, they kill the dolphins “as a form of pest control.”
The dolphins, from the fishermen’s perspective, eat too much fish, and the fishermen are simply killing the competition. This is the first time ever that Japanese dolphin hunters have openly admitted to executing pest control on dolphins. Over-fishing of the oceans is a tremendous problem on a global level, and the Japanese fishermen, supported by their government, are wrongly pointing at the dolphins as the reason for this depletion. The Japanese government is making the same false argument in front of the International Whaling Commission that whales eat fish and therefore need to be controlled by killing.
The desire to keep the dolphin population down is a major reason why the Japanese government is so keen on issuing permits for the hunts. It is not really about providing meat for the Japanese people. It is not really about maintaining what the fishermen repeatedly refer to as their “tradition” or “culture.”
It is about eradicating as many dolphins as possible in order to make the oceans’ fish available to themselves.  We know of several areas in Japan where local dolphin populations have declined or been eradicated by this mentality, fully supported by the Japanese government.

 

The majority of the adults are killed, and the babies are released to the wild where they are unlikely to survive.  This is done so that the babies don't count against the permitted number of kills. (Photo from Planet Whale).
The majority of the adults are killed, and the babies are released to the wild where they are unlikely to survive. This is done so that the babies don’t count against the permitted number of kills. (Photo from Planet Whale).

Researchers have conclusively proven that whales and dolphins are of little direct competition for fish and marketable squid – it turns out that the biggest competitor in those areas are large fish. (Competition Between Fisheries and Marine Mammals for Prey and Primary Production in the Pacific Ocean). Where humans and dolphins do compete is at the trophic level.  In other words, commercially viable fish just happen to thrive in a different branch of the same food web.
Dolphins don't directly compete for fish and squid after all. http://www.zoology.ubc.ca/~consort/2006/ecosystem_change.php
Dolphins don’t directly compete for fish and squid after all. http://www.zoology.ubc.ca/~consort/2006/ecosystem_change.php

The slaughter of thousands dolphins in the hands of a few Taiji, Japan fishermen each year is brutal (for more on the Japan dolphin drives I highly recommend this informative article  by Elizabeth Batt, and also the Save Japan Dolphins website), as told in this eyewitness account:

By Cynthia Fernandez Cove Monitor Save Japan Dolphins Earth Island Institute
One Risso’s, in particular, had such a will to live!  Trying to escape the killers, it swam into the nets, the killers tried to untangle it, but it was fighting so hard for its right to live.  Finally, they tied its tail to the boat and pulled it towards the tarps.  As it was being pulled, it continued to fight so ferociously for survival, I could hear it’s body slamming into the boat, repeatedly.  A sound I will never forget.  I fought back my tears as I watched this beautiful animal struggle so hard to live.  Unfortunately, a dolphin is no match for these heartless killers.  As they pulled that dolphin under the tarps, the thrashing was louder and longer than I had ever heard.  I knew that dolphin was still fighting to live. 

Courtesy of Digital Journal.
Courtesy of Digital Journal.

Then, the silence came, and the Cove water began to turn a blood red.  I knew that brave dolphin had finally succumbed to these heartless, dolphin killers.  I could no longer hold back my tears.  I will never forget that courageous dolphin and all the other dolphins of Taiji. I watched as the bodies of the Risso’s were first loaded onto the skiffs then transferred to a banger boat for transport to the butcher house.  Once again, the killers sat on the tarps that covered the bodies so that the lifeless corpses could not be seen or photographed. Once again, beautiful Risso’s dolphins, which had just been swimming freely hours ago, had been reduced to limp, lifeless bodies by this handful of men.  Just another day in Taiji.

My training as a biologist makes it a struggle to express – without being anthropomorphic – what I felt once when I made eye contact with a wild Risso’s dolphin out in the open ocean. A gray and white head materialized on the face of an approaching swell, rising as our ship descended into a trough.  He hung there for a few seconds and gazed into my eyes. apparently curious, before turning and disappearing again into the choppy water.
When he left, the ocean once again seemed a vast and lonely void, peopled only by marching swells.
In the film The Whalewhich is about a young orca who befriended humans, people try to describe how it feels to make contact with an intelligent, albeit large, dolphin (orcas, or killer whales are actually just very large dolphins):
The Taiji fishermen claim that they have ancestral rights to kill the dolphins and whales, but the truth is that the annual dolphin slaughter didn’t really amount to much until around 1969, when simultaneously Japan’s fisheries began to collapse, and marine mammal amusement parks boomed (SeaWorld purchased false killer whales from Taiji at one point).
The sales of captured dolphins is lucrative, and unfortunately for the animals, they are relatively easy pickings for the hunters due to the location of Taiji.
An unfortunate convergence of bathymetry (ocean floor shape) and primitive thinking set the stage for the decimation of Risso’s dolphins in Taiji.  Ironically, this species is usually found off the continental shelf and where the bottom rises steeply towards the surface (Baumgarner et al). The problem for the Risso’s dolphins is that the continental shelf is very narrow along Japan, and worse the convergence of underwater features off the coast of Taiji act as an underwater gateway.

Taiji is located in the region of the reddish dot. Notice how the there is a second steep underwater rise.
Taiji is located in the region of the reddish dot. Notice how the there is a second steep underwater rise.

The few Risso’s dolphins that are deemed “unblemished” enough (not much chance with this species) are taken into captivity and used for entertainment.
It is a sad end for the dolphins, no matter what, and ultimately sad for Japan as they continue to take more from the ocean than can be sustained, and wage war on the species that might be able to protect the viability of their ocean environment. Scientists recently reported that whales play a key role in maintaining healthy fish stocks, and the evidence is mounting that dolphins share that crucial role. Going into the future, the countries that have healthy fisheries will be countries that have healthy dolphin and whale populations, there is no question.
Perhaps saddest of all is that this is not reflective of the majority of the people of Japan, who are largely unaware that these drives take place, and who are beginning to phase out of the consumption of whale and dolphin meat. Cultural change is happening, and hopefully at a swift enough pace to stop the senseless slaughter of the harmless dolphins who pass their shores.
Risso's dolphin in a Japan theme park (OpenCage photo).
Risso’s dolphin in a Japan theme park (OpenCage photo).

Lost Orca Whale Needs Time and Food, Will Norway Help?

Center for Whale Research
Center for Whale Research

UPDATE! Norway cares, and in a big way! Please check the International Dolphin and Whale Stranding Network for further updates.

This calf was not sighted today; it may have headed else where or out to sea – or may have died. It is only about 15 days old!
Reposting: My name is Eve Jourdain, I am a biologist specialized in Orcas and currently in Andenes, North of Norway running a whale-watching season as a guide. You may know that a couple of days ago, a baby orca was found in Alsvag, Oksnes, alone. I’ve been yesterday to check it out, and as an orca biologist, I would like to share with you what I know from the situation. I saw this calf for the first time on Sunday at 2pm. The calf is roughly 15 days old and not in a good shape. As you can see on the pictures, it has a really thin layer of blubber, and to me, it seems very skinny. It has been spotted for the first time by locals 5 days ago and some people tried to feed it with fish. Its body needs milk of course, but at least some calories! It is an emergency now and its state was really critical. After getting home last night, I got in touch with the Norwegian Fisheries Department, asking for a permission, at least to try to help this orca. The plan was then to wait for the morning, to find it again, and to invite the authorities and decide about a potential rescue plan with their permission. Unfortunately, even after long hours at sea this morning looking for this calf, we didn’t find it. Some people from the North Atlantic Society are still on the spot, looking. I think I built a strong network of contacts (authorities + vet + scientists) here last night, and we are able to organize something to help this orca if we find it again. The plan has to be discussed if needed, but it would probably be to provide intense cares and feeding as a first step. To do it, we need a small sea pen. Indeed, put this orca in a tank/aquarium is not even an option!! Norway doesn’t want to see “Morgan’s case” happening again!
I will let you know if I have anything new.
I have attached some pictures I took yesterday.
Have a nice day.
Cheers,
Eve Jourdain

Another young orca has been separated from its family and faces an uncertain future in the frigid northern Norwegian fjords.  In April last year a similarly isolated young orca in Norway was shot and killed within a day of its discovery, before any attempts to rescue and possibly find its natal pod could be made – hopefully the present situation will resolve in a better outcome, although this young whale’s prospects are not good at the moment.
Yet if you consider the gift that the lost whale Luna gave to us, you can’t help but hope that we keep trying to help, given that we are so often the cause of these separations in the first, given the amount of noise we create in the ocean environment, and the loss of fishery stocks.

In this case at least, Norway whale expert Tiu Similä   was consulted and offered her opinion.  “This orca-[calf] in Alsvåg can not fend for [itself]. As it has been without his [pod] at least five days now, it probably pretty hungry and probably stressed.The reason why it nearly stranded by Instøya was enough that there was a shallow sand beach that makes echolocation, especially for one inexperienced animals difficult.”

Photo by Kristoffer Larsen
Photo by Kristoffer Larsen

As an emergency measure right now can be said that offer this young orca fish.But the ethical dilemma is what to do next. I am of the opinion that these animals should live with the family flock. Killer whales (both males and females) is in the herd are born throughout life (the mating between the flocks), it may say little of the significance of the pack. If your kid is fed, so it can survive, but you may ask what kind of life it’s going to get.
To get it returned to his family should happen as soon as possible, but is probably not practically feasible. First, one does not know the family relationship and, secondly, the killer whale now heading south to the herring spawn. To get this kid transported there and get it reunited with his family is probably a totally impossible task.
I’m not sure what kind of authority that is responsible for this animal. I think though that it should be excused because the chance that it will be able to live as normal a killer whale is very small. But this, other than me considering.
Transport to one aquarium is certainly not recommended! Living in a pool is not one for a killer whale … (Norwegian article here).

Alsvig, Norway.
Alsvig, Norway.

Given that this young whale is hanging around in the vicinity of a fish farm it would seem an easy enough thing to provide it with fish until its family can be located.  I’m sure that to the fish farmers the orca (or any marine mammal for that matter) represents potential loss – yet a one year old calf is hardly likely to cause damage, and the local businesses would benefit from the revenue its presence is sure to generate.
Why not at least try?

Luna the Whale’s Gift – He Taught Us What We Are in Danger of Losing

The recent death of the young orca Victoria (L-112) who was killed by an explosive force may seem to some to be inconsequential in the scope of the need for military preparedness. Somehow we humans think that this planet is ours alone, and that our petty squabbles are so important that we have the right to destroy not just each other, but potentially most of life on Earth.
We rely upon world leaders to keep the scale of our conflicts within bounds, to limit where and how the military forces can practice with bombs, gasses, diseases, and sound. Once thought to be both bountiful and indestructible, the planet’s oceans seemed to be the logical alternative.
But now we know better, we know that the life of the sea is in peril everywhere, that the oceans are losing their capacity to absorb abuse, and that military excursions can destroy – in seconds – entire communities of animals.
What are we losing? The story of Luna (L-98), shows us the nature of a species that may turn out one of the only other friendly intelligent beings in a lonely universe. This particular population of orcas, the Southern Residents, is unique and when they are gone they will take with them a rare and irreplaceable culture. (Please take our poll on the Navy impact).
The filmmakers have now made it possible for you to show this touching tale in your own community.

Movie on the Move – Book your screening now!
 
Wherever you live, you can now host your own screening of The Whale through our new screening program, Movie on the Move!
The home video DVD won’t be out for a few more months, but we are now offering the film to any individual or group that wants to host a screening. There will be a fee in advance, but no revenue sharing will be required if you charge admission, no matter how much your group makes. You keep all the proceeds.
That makes it very easy to use The Whale for fundraisers or for any other kind of event. In the fundraisers for which the film has already been used, thousands of dollars have been raised for worthy causes.
Here’s how it works. You book the film, you organize the venue, and you decide what you’d like to do. You can use it as a fundraiser; you can show it to your film group or church group or school or NGO; you can charge admission; you can open the doors to anyone. It’s up to you.
We will provide you with a DVD or Blu-ray, and still photos, videos, and other information to help you promote your screening. We can also help with posters, and when possible we can arrange for one of the directors to do a post-screening Skype video call. We can also help promote your screening on our website and on our social media networks.
The license fee for a community group or non-profit fundraising screening is $250. For film festivals and commercial screenings, the fee is $350.
Questions? For more information and to book your screening, please e-mail us directly at suzanne@thewhalemovie.com.

When Baby Whales Get Lost, What We Do Matters

Luna, Springer, and Morgan are all young whales who got separated from their families, and although the stories vary in time and space, each tells a tale of how humanity reacts when a young wild animal is found lost and alone.
Luna chose to befriend people, and lived for years a short 300 mile distance from his family. No attempt was made to reunite him with his family because of politics, complicated by an attempt by SeaWorld to take him into captivity, and he eventually died without being reunited. (Luna’s story).
Springer, also 300 miles from her family, was rescued, kept in a seapen and rehabilitated, then transported back to her family. She still swims wild, and was seen just this year – healthy and sleek, in the company of her relatives. (Springer’s story).
More recently, Morgan was rescued but she was taken into captivity, and like Luna, her story is complicated by attempts by the captive industry to retain her:

In a thoughtful and poignant essay on the value of these stories, filmmaker Michael Parfit writes:
“Stories last. When argument is stilled, what remains is the true narrative of lives themselves: the way someone commits kindness out of instinct and knowledge; the ways an individual shows respect across the walls between cultures, nations, even species; the way you honor the needs of other lives even when those needs cannot be understood.
The things we do in our own narrative of living and the stories we tell radiate their thematic foundations unspoken, like the worldview in a movie, and effortlessly accomplish that which is so hard to do with fury or partisan eloquence.”
People are moved and motivated to help young wild animals find their families, but when it comes to whales and dolphins, the money and power of corporations like SeaWorld can steamroller right over our ability to do what is right for the animals.  It can be costly to release young whales back to their families, but not any more so than transporting them and keeping them in captivity.
Remember too that it is a reciprocal relationship, and dolphins (orcas are large dolphins) have been known to save us from drowning and from sharks that we may never even know were there.
Contact the Orca Coalition to learn more about Morgan, and find out how you can help return the young orca Morgan to her family.

Young Orca Whale ‘Talks’ to Boat: What Would You Say If You Could Communicate With Dolphins?


Whether or not it is a good idea to communicate with dolphins is something I’ve personally struggled with for most of my life, and yesterday was no different as I struggled to write this post. Everything went wrong, from technical difficulties to brain freezes on my part, so I finally took down the original version. I realized that it really is a big question, the core of which is that we need to consider what possible benefit it will be to whales and dolphins to be able to communicate with us. My fear is that people would find new ways to use them for their own means. Plus, people really haven’t figured out how to communicate with each other well, and most of the time are not straightforward, honest, and open with each other.
But most of all, we humans tend to dwell on the past and worry about the future, and forget about being present in the present. Animals are fully present in the moment, their survival depends upon it – and it is one of the things that makes being with them so appealing.
Luna, the young lost whale in the video, spent years hanging out with people and learned to imitate the sounds that he heard because he was lost from his family and their vocalizations. Humans, on the other hand, fully aware of how to locate and reunite him with his family instead chose to argue, fight, delay decisions to return him 300 measly miles to the south where he could find his family.

We were concerned about our own issues, what it might mean for future lost whales, what happened to other lost whales. He just wanted community.
Now we are again faced with the choice: do we return the young, lost orca Morgan to her family, and perhaps have an ambassador of sorts – a wild whale who might grow up and be willing to stay in contact with humans – or do we keep her in captivity where she will just learn to imitate the sounds of her tank and the vocalizations of other, unrelated, orcas. Kept in a tank she will be unable to teach us anything, since the other captive orcas were all taken from their family as calves, or were born in captivity.
If we are going to learn anything from whales and dolphins, we need to start with wild adult animals, not preschoolers. Let’s return Morgan home and see what happens.

Time: Wednesday, September 14 · 12:00am – 11:30pm
Location: Everywhere
Created By: Free Morgan

More Info
This Wednesday is ‘Ask your friends to support Morgan’-day . This day we will ask our friends, family and other people we know (or even strangers that we happen to encounter or that girl/guy we secretly like or maybe the bus driver) to donate at least 1 dollar/euro for Morgans legal fund. We hope you will join us in doing the same. Don’t forget.. if they can’t support Morgan financially, maybe they can like our facebook page and show their support too in this way.

Our crowdfunding page: https://www.4just1.com/project/45
Other donation options: http://www.orcacoalition.org/

Reminder: Filmmaker Will Be Present at the Seattle and Tacoma Opening of “The Whale” Sept 9th, 2011

Seattle and Tacoma – September 9
“The Whale will play in Seattle at SIFF Cinema starting on Friday, September 9 at 7:00 pm, with three shows on Saturday and Sunday. At least one of us will be in attendance for Q&A following all weekend screenings. The Whale will continue playing through September 15.  SIFF Cinema is located at McCaw Hall at Seattle Center, 321 Mercer St., Seattle, WA. For more info on showtimes and to buy a ticket, go to SIFF Cinema’s website.
“We’ll also be screening the film in Tacoma at the Grand Cinema, starting on Friday, September 9. One of us will be in attendance following the two Saturday matinee screenings, 1:30 and 3:30 pm. The Grand Cinema is located at 606 S. Fawcett Ave, Tacoma, WA. The film plays through September 15. For more info on showtimes and to buy a ticket, go to the Grand Cinema’s website

“The Whale”: How The Life of One Little Southern Resident Orca Is Reaching Hearts Across The World

“The Whale” had its worldwide premiere in the Danish Faroe Islands, and will soon be opening in other locations, starting with Seattle and Tacoma on September 9th, 2011. For more information on the film and to find out about locations near you, go to The Whale Movie website.
Don’t miss this poignant film;  you will laugh, you will find tears pooling behind the curtains of your lashes, but most of all, you’ll experience what these animals are all about.  It is unforgettable.

From the filmmakers: “It was an amazing screening of THE WHALE at the Nordic House in Torshavn, Faroe Islands last night.

The film received two huge rounds of applause – in one of the last whaling nations on Earth. It was followed by a provocative discussion with some tough questions – I was grilled by a pro-whaling member of the Faroese parliament.

The message at the end was one straight from Luna: friendship is bigger than we know – and friendship must form the basis for relationships across cultures and species.”



We could either have a red-carpet premiere with celebrities at a theater in LA, or we could do something specific to help whales,” said Suzanne Chisholm, the film’s producer and co-director, who will be in attendance at the premiere on behalf of the film. “So when people in the Faroes invited us because they love what this story means, we jumped at the chance.”
The spectacular and remote Faroe Islands archipelago is a self-governing territory of Denmark, located between Scotland and Iceland. The Islands’ traditional pilot whale hunts have recently become the focus of international opposition to whaling. This opposition has dramatically increased this summer with the arrival of an activist ship and television crews.
“Having the world premiere of THE WHALE here will hopefully inspire people, enlighten everyone, raise awareness and increase the understanding of animals,” says Rúni Nielsen, a member of the board of the Faroese Animal Protection Organization, which invited THE WHALE. “The film is a very positive story about a whale. We agree with the theme of the film, that ‘Friendship is bigger than we know.’”
The Faroese Animal Protection Organization protects pets, wildlife, farm, and work animals on the islands.
“I would like to express my deep appreciation to the people of the Faroe Islands who have welcomed us to their country,” said Ady Gil, founder of Ady Gil World Conservation, a sponsor of the event. “They are giving us the opportunity to show the other side of whales, and how compassion can be built between humans and other species.”  (From the press release).