Activists Gear Up for Easter Protest at SeaWorld
By Cara Wilson-Granat
Dame Jane Goodall (famed British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace) was asked a question. “Why did she do what she did for the chimps she has advocated for all her life?” She answered by sharing a true story.
A captive lab chimp had never lived outside a cage his entire life. Now freed by Jane and her team of researchers and scientists, the frightened primate sat and watched the other chimps in a large zoo compound—free of cages and offering grassy, rocky, chimp-appealing offerings, including the sight and sound of others like him. He was terrified by such a contrast—from darkness to light.
A growing crowd of onlookers watched silently as the terrified chimp was being acclimated to his new world and then in a united gasp of disbelief witnessed the chimp run and fall into the watery moat surrounding the enclosure. Not knowing what to do, never having experienced being in water before, he began to flail in terror and sink.
At that, a man in the crowd instantly jumped over the railing, dove into the water and pulled the huge ape up and out of the water to safer grounds. The man was even able to get there faster than the watching zookeeper who was as horrified as were all the on-lookers. The man made sure that the chimp was breathing alright. Climbing over the railing back to the crowd he turned to see the chimp yet again running in fright and falling back into the water. Again, the man jumped over the railing, lifted the heavy, flailing chimp back up onto the grassy enclosure and waited until now the chimp seemed to realize that he was home and calmed down.
After what seemed like eternity, everyone observed the chimp being welcomed by the others in the troop and appeared safe at last. Finally, someone in the crowd turned to the man and asked him, “Why did he do that? What would compel him to risk being killed by a huge, drowning ape that could have easily mauled him in fear?” And the man said simply, “I looked into his eyes.”
This is the beginning of a series in which we will introduce The San Diego 10, the longest-held captive orcas and tell their story. And we will also help you meet some San Diego 10 advocates, representing millions worldwide, who have also “…looked into their eyes.”
Prisoner #1: Corky (photo)
Age: About 47
Captured: Dec. 11, 1969, in Pender Harbour, British Columbia
Corky, (once known as Shamu) one of the oldest living captive orcas, is one of the most promising candidates for full release to the open ocean because because conservationists know her pod still spends part of the year in Johnstone Strait, off of Vancouver Island.
On the Save the Whales website (founded in 1977), this is what they say about this magnificent mammal who has suffered a lifetime of hardship by Sea World in the name of “entertainment.” Since her capture from her pod Corky has been, “…walked on, ridden on, climbed over, and made to perform foolish tricks in order to obtain frozen fish. How different the world of concrete, frozen food, and thousands of gawking people aiming their cameras is from Corky’s true home. If she had not been captured at the age of four, she would be living in the waters off the northern shore of Vancouver Island with her family group, the A5 pod.”
Corky has given birth to seven calves in captivity, all of whom have died. Her mate, Orky, died 18 months after the pair was transferred from the now defunct Marineland to Sea World. In a freak accident, Corky was attacked by another female, Kandu, who perished in the assault. It was horrific for all who witnessed such a tragedy.
Corky is also used as the “Welcome Whale” for new trainers and new orcas. She has also “adopted” some of the whales she has been with. She has been a surrogate mother to Sumar, Orkid, and Keet. Corky is easy to identify, mostly because of her large size for a female, her tall unbent dorsal fin, the small ‘chips’ in her dorsal fin, and a nick in her left dorsal fluke.
For many years, Dr. Paul Spong (New Zealand neuroscientist and cetologist; a member of Save The Whales scientific Advisory Committee; Greenpeace; and OrcaLab, Alert Bay, B.C.Canada), along with other environmentalists, have been pressing for Corky’s release. But still after all this time, efforts at diplomacy and friendly argument failed to persuade Sea World of the benefits they could reap from Corky’s release. One of the arguments posed was that of orca longevity. Sea World only sees its need for Corky as a commodity and not truly seeing all that she is, have turned a blind eye to this beautiful being.
It’s quite possible that Corky will never be freed from her cement confines nor gather with her beloved family once again and speak the distinct dialect of her pod. Though opposite what Sea World believes, that orcas only live to be around 35 years old, there is scientific evidence to the contrary. In the wild, orcas live to be 70 and beyond. But Corky is in prison and her health is fading. Her kidneys are not functioning well. She has stopped ovulating, her teeth are worn down and she is almost blind in one eye. When she is not forced to perform, she is held in one of the back tanks with eight other captive orcas. Mostly she passes time by endlessly circling her tank.
Lack of exercise, poor diet, and emotional stress, all shorten the life of a captive orca. As Dr. Spong expressed so well, “What orcas are displaying in these tanks is a caricature of the real orca—almost a shadow—when you consider what the orca is like in the ocean.”
There is a good chance that Corky’s mother is still alive. Wouldn’t that be an incredible reunion to witness? Highly intelligent and sensitive, Corky might still remember her family; the “Free Corky” page at Whale and Dolphin Conservation reads, “She visibly shook and vocalized poignantly when a tape recording of her family’s calls were played to her in 1993.” We can only pray that she will be given that chance to be with them in her own ocean home some day soon before it’s too late…
Prisoner Advocate: Martha Sullivan (Photo)
Martha lives in Del Mar Terrace and moved to San Diego County 13 years ago. She is a small business owner selling fine art and collectibles online, after a 25-year career in state government and in consulting. For the past 10 years, she has been a volunteer grassroots community organizer, and helped to keep the defective San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant shut.
When asked about the work she does on behalf of the Sea World captives, this is what she says based on her knowledge of the information released by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, “At least 137 orcas have been brought into captivity from the wild since 1961. There are 124 of them that are now dead, surviving an average only four years in captivity. Three of these 13 survivors are here in San Diego: Corky2, Kasatka and Ulises. When do they get to retire, after 35-45 years in captivity and performance? Why is it so unreasonable from SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.’s perspective to provide retirement facilities for these long-serving beings who by SeaWorld’s insistence have been crucial to its financial success? Are these survivors doomed to perform until they die?
“To me, the for-profit performing animal industry is the epitome of the mega-corporation that exploits its workforce for the enrichment of the 1%. In addition to exploiting these intelligent, socially sophisticated marine mammals, SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. characterized unions and collective bargaining as a threat to profits in the prospectus for its Initial Public Offering (IPO) last year — and it has done so since it opened in San Diego 50 years ago (and SEIU picketed it).
“I live and work in San Diego, where this industry was founded 50 years ago and today is home to the 10 orcas held in captivity in California. I consider it a sacred mission to secure more compassionate and ethical habitat for these highly intelligent fellow mammals whose family and social bonds are just as strong if not more so than ours. Also to end the unethical artificial breeding that completely ignores these animals’ natural history and produces Frankenorcas.”
Watch for the next in this series, featuring Prisoner #2, Kasatka, and her Prisoner Advocate.
JOIN PROTEST AT SEA WORLD SAN DIEGO:
EASTER SUNDAY (April 20, 2014): 10-1pm
Sea World Drive @ Sea World Way
Free Parking Available in the South Shores boat launch parking lot off Sea World Drive, then walk about ½ mile west along Sea World Drive to the demo intersection.
Cara Wilson-Granat is an author, speaker and freelance writer. Years ago one of her advertising accounts was writing for Sea World. When she recently watched Blackfish the movie changed her perspective–and in many ways her life. (www.wordsfromcara.com)