Fifteen years ago, Springer, an orphaned and lost orca calf was successfully rescued, rehabilitated, and returned to her wild family.
“Springer’s story is an inspiration on many levels,” said Paul Spong of OrcaLab. “It proved that an orphan orca, alone and separated from her family, can be rehabilitated and returned to a normal productive life with her family and community; and it showed that disparate parties with diverse interests can come together and work together for the common goal of helping one little whale.”
“The Springer success story continues to be an inspiration for all of us working on conservation in the Salish Sea,” said Lynne Barre, the lead for orca recovery at NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast regional office in Seattle. “The partnerships created during Springer’s rescue provide a strong foundation for international cooperation as well as coordination between government, state, tribal, and non-profit groups to benefit both Northern and Southern Resident killer whales.”
Fifteen years later, Springer is still healthy and in 2013 had her first calf, Spirit. They are most often seen on the north central British Columbia coast and occasionally return to Johnstone Strait in summer.
“Springer’s reunion is an unqualified success – the only project of its kind in history,” said Donna Sandstrom, director of The Whale Trail and organizer of the Vashon Island event. “To get the little whale home, we had to learn how to work together, as organizations, agencies and nations. Above all, we put her best interests first. Community members played a key role in shaping Springer’s fate. We hope her story inspires people to join us in working on issues facing our endangered southern resident orcas today, with the same urgency, commitment, and resolve.”
The 2002 Springer rescue team will reconvene in programs and events in Puget Sound, Georgia Strait and Telegraph Cove in May, June and July to give first-hand accounts of how Springer was identified, rescued and rehabilitated. She was taken by jet catamaran to the north end of Vancouver Island and reunited with her Northern Resident family.
“Celebrate Springer!” begins on May 20 on Vashon Island near the waters were Springer was found. The Vashon Theater program of “Springer’s Story” will feature members of the rescue team, a dance performance by Le La La Dancers, who were present at Springer’s release, and followed by a late afternoon Whale Trail sign dedication at the Point Robinson Lighthouse.
The event will continue in June and July with programs at NOAA Fisheries, Whale Trail Orca Talk, Whale Trail sign dedications, and conclude with a three-day program at Telegraph Cove, British Columbia, where Springer was released in 2002 and rejoined her Northern Resident family.
For more information, check out the Celebrate Springer Facebook page and The Whale Trail.
“Celebrate Springer!” partners include NOAA Fisheries, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, OrcaLab, Whale Interpretive Center, Vancouver Aquarium and The Whale Trail.