Orca Profiles in Captivity: No. 10 of the San Diego 10

by on May 20, 2014 · 5 comments

in California, Environment, History, Media, Ocean Beach, Organizing, San Diego

Orca No 10 (Ten in a series)

By Cara Wilson-Granat

This is the tenth and final article in a series of ten in which we have met all of the San Diego 10 orcas and heard from advocates who continue to be one of the voices of these imprisoned voiceless, never stopping until the whole world listens.

If you have missed any of them, you may read them now at orca Prisoner profiles – Orca Profile #1 ,#2, #3 , #5 , No. #6 , No. #7, No #8, and No. #9.

After reading about Prisoner #10, Makani, please scroll down this article and “meet” one of the top San Diego 10 Prisoner Advocates! This week’s Advocate is Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.

Prisoner #10: Makani

Age: 15 months old

Born on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013, Makani made his debut in Shamu Stadium, SeaWorld San Diego. Guided by his momma and big sister, the baby swam immediately to the surface just seconds after he was born to take his first breath.

Makani, (his name means “Wind” in Hawaiian) was the fourth calf born to mother, Kasatka and father, Kshamenk, an Argentine orca. Makani’s half-siblings with mom, Kasatka, are Takara, Nakai and Kalia. (Read about both parents in #2 of this Series; sibs Nakai and Kalia are also of the San Diego 10, with Nakai featured in No. #7, and Kalia in No. #9).

Conceived via artificial insemination, Makani’s mother is a resident Icelandic orca held captive in California, and his father, imprisoned in Argentina, was trapped and captured offshore there —this unnatural coupling has made Makani a hybrid of two vastly different ecotypes, which would never occur in the wild.

The frisky calf is full of energy, often seen copying the other whales—breaching beside them or on his own. Makani seems to have a playful exuberance about him, and his happiness could be attributed to the fact that his big sister, Kalia, is very close to him, as is his mother Kasatka. Kalia was by his side when he was born and this might attribute to her strong maternal care for her baby brother.

Makani spends most of his time with his mother, though he is showing signs of independence swimming off by himself. As long as he’s allowed to live within his family pod and not wrenched away and loaned off for breeding purposes, Makani has a good chance for survival. Given the fact that orcas bond for lifetimes with their pod and swim up to 100 miles a day in the wild, this little guy is living a truly alien life for an orca. We’re hoping that he’s not separated from his mother or siblings ever.

Makani’s father, Kshamenk, is known as “the loneliest orca in the world,” living a horrendously sad life imprisoned in Mundo Marino, Argentina. Though there is worldwide effort to extricate him from the dredges of his solitary confinement, the fear is that it might be too late to save him as his health is deteriorating. As stated before, you can read all about Kshamenk in #2 of this series.

All eyes are on this youngster, Makani, in the hopes that his life will be a kinder one than that of his father, and, indeed so many other captive orcas—featured in this series and all around the world—each alone and separated far from their pods. We hope in time, that this young orca will be able to carry the freedom and joy within him in the spirit of his father, Kshamenk, and all the others. Together, we can fight for this possibility—offering imprisoned orcas the safety and protection of natural sea pen sanctuaries with bonded orcas kept together, no performing in shows and the loud music and fireworks that go along with the shows, no captive breeding program to create more orcas doomed to an unnatural life, and no import/export of orcas or semen.

We have focused on the San Diego 10 so that you can truly “look into their eyes” and discover what is going on behind the scenes. It’s not a pretty picture. Hard to applaud “performers” who are living such quiet desperation. They’ve tried to tell us. They’ve displayed totally uncharacteristic behaviors of their wild orca counterparts.

Nothing that we see them do is typical of orcas being free orcas. No. These imprisoned, artificially bred, loaned, transported, unhealthy, isolated, drugged, trained, and sedated captives have gone mad with frustration. They’ve killed each other and their human trainers. They’ve displayed defensive, angry, dangerous behaviors—both to themselves and others. They’ve birthed babies who die stillborn, prematurely, or shortly after birth. They’ve lived dramatically short lives. They’ve suffered from or died of myriad diseases. They’ve had temper tantrums and nervous breakdowns before our eyes. What more must they do to beg us to free them? To help them? To hear them and do something about it?

We are aware that there are many people— captive orca trainers and vets—who dearly love these gentle giants. These are not bad people. If you see the movie, Blackfish, you can hear what they have to say. They are as distraught over the mishandling of these orcas as we are. But their hands are tied. We need to go behind the corporate “OZ” curtain and help those in charge of the spread sheets and charts and marketing see the Big Picture.

What do the people want? They want a theme park filled with fun and rides and food and all of that—with the chance to see the orcas and all the other animals in habitats as natural and close to the real deal as possible. We’re now living in a whole new digital age. Audiences expect IMAX, animatronics , 3D, crazy wild “whale” rides and experiencing just about as real as it gets experiences—without destroying the ecosystem to enjoy it. Huge screens throughout the park showing the animals doing what they do naturally could be seen everywhere. Families could get the chance to see, hear, understand, react to and learn about the wonder and beauty of them all without any hands-on human intervention of any kind. It can and should be done. NOW.

It is time for a positive paradigm shift for SeaWorld and all other parks and venues using captive animals for profit. Break down the barriers of the past and welcome a whole new horizon. It can be done gracefully and the world will welcome the change. It’s what everybody wants more than ever. It’s never, ever too late to do the right thing. Do it now. The whole world is watching…

Prisoner Advocate: Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is a busy woman being a civic leader. But even more, she says, “I’m a mom who loves my children very much.” Above all she values the strong bonds of all families and communities towards each other—the very foundation of mutual cooperation, strength, and loving respect. So it was after seeing the movie, Blackfish, that she witnessed the antithesis of this. What she saw was terrible pain, and was impacted the most by witnessing the tragedy of orca mother and child being wrenched from each other. That’s when she began to research the truth behind the performing orcas in California, who are all now kept by SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. in San Diego.

The Assemblywoman says,

“Next to humans, orcas might be the most intelligent beings on the planet. Their entire social life is predetermined in the wild.”

What orca captors are doing, she has discovered in her extensive research speaking to scientists, animal behaviorists and more,

“…is breaking up the orcas’ social structure completely. Doing this to animals of such high intelligence is not okay. What orca captors are doing is just wrong.”

Did the Assemblywoman Gonzalez speak to the people at SeaWorld directly? “Yes,” she says, “and they tried to convince me otherwise with their wild vs. captivity argument.”

So she began to look deeper into this issue and:

“I followed my gut and did my own research. I don’t doubt that SeaWorld loves those animals, but I’ve worked extensively with them on labor issues in the past. This is a for-profit company and their goal is not to save endangered animals. Their goal is to make money. They have many labor issues that I’ve addressed with them and if they treat their people this poorly it only comes to reason that they would treat their animals poorly too.”

On April 7, 2014, California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) made the following statement in Sacramento about Assembly Bill 2140 (Bloom) in anticipation of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife’s consideration of the bill which was to be considered on that Tuesday morning (during this hearing, the bill was referred to Interim Study to collect additional information, for reconsideration in the next legislative session):

“Upon learning a few weeks ago that Assemblyman Bloom would be authoring Assembly Bill 2140, I told the media that I was inclined to support his proposal. Since then, I have studied the issue carefully and consulted with many experts involved in the debate – including representatives from SeaWorld and independent experts in the field – in hopes of understanding the landmark changes Mr. Bloom is hoping to accomplish with A.B. 2140.

“Barring any new information that could change my mind tomorrow, I plan to strongly support A.B. 2140 and vote to bring an end to the practice of holding orcas in captivity solely for entertainment purposes in California.

As a longtime advocate for the environment and for worker safety, I am greatly concerned by the practice of confining orcas’ living environments, sequestering them from their natural social organizations, forcing them to perform circus tricks for huge profits, and endangering the well-being of employees by putting them in hazardous situations.

Of these, I’m most familiar with the attempts by the local operator of orca shows to oppose measures to increase worker safety and that unfortunately doesn’t bode well for their credibility on the other issues raised by A.B. 2140.

“SeaWorld’s most compelling arguments to continue the performance of captive orcas for entertainment purposes have been economic in nature. The reason to carry on with these dangerous orca performances, SeaWorld says, is because they generate profits.

“To those who oppose this legislation, I take no satisfaction in making two predictions: First—you are on the wrong side of history, and that within my lifetime this indefensible practice will be outlawed. Second – tragically, another employee will be hurt or killed by a distressed orca, and predictably, management will blame the victim and call it ‘trainer error.’ Neither of those facts can be justified by profits.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez isn’t about to give up on the orcas. She says,

“The fight lives on for another day and I’m confident that some of the legitimate concerns about implementing AB 2140 can be worked out by the next time we discuss the troubling practice of keeping orcas in captivity for entertainment purposes.”

We thank this courageous leader—and mom—for prioritizing the importance of life and the loving connection between all beings, human and non, to live the lives they were born to live unshackled by greed.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents the 80th Assembly District, which includes Chula Vista, National City and the San Diego neighborhoods of City Heights, Barrio Logan, Paradise Hills, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. For more information, visit http://asmdc.org/members/a80/.

ACTION ITEM: Join the Worldwide “Empty the Tanks!” Movement in San Diego on Saturday, May 24th between 10a – 1p. Meet at the intersection of Sea World Drive and Sea World Way, just east of the entrance to SeaWorld. Park in the public South Shores boat launch parking lot, off Sea World Drive east of the I-5, and walk about a half-mile west to the intersection on the pedestrian/bike path alongside Sea World Drive (observe the parking lot signs about boat and trailer parking spaces).


This is a day for everyone around the world to stand up against marine mammal captivity. The abuse and exploitation of these sentient beings has no place in the 21st century. Approximately 17 dolphin family (which include orcas) members are killed for every one dolphin selected to sell for very large sums to Marine Amusement Parks worldwide that hold cetaceans captive for our entertainment.

If there is no demand, there will be no Slaughter! For the Dolphin Slaughter to end, people actually have to do Nothing! They just have to NOT buy a ticket!

• There are currently 42 orcas being held captive worldwide.
• At least 136 wild orcas have been taken into captivity from the wild since 1961.
• 123 of these (or 90.4%) orcas are now dead.
• In the wild, orcas live as long or longer than humans; in captivity, their lives are cut to less than half.
• Dolphins live 25-50 years in the wild, but only average 5 yrs. in captivity.
• Wild Orcas swim up to 100 miles/day.
• Wild dolphins swim up to 40 miles/day; It would take 5,000 endless circles per day to swim that far in a tank.

Dolphin Sonar, a useful tool in the wild, disorients them as it bounces off the concrete pool walls. It’s like living in a hall of mirrors. They become neurotic and depressed and aggressively frustrated.

3 trainers have been killed by Orcas so far and numerous attacks have been recorded.

Dolphins and orcas in captivity die from capture shock, pneumonia, intestinal disease, ulcers, chlorine poisoning, and other stress-related illnesses. To the captive dolphin industry, these facts are accepted as routine operating expenses.

“Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.” Adyashanti

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)

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Teresa Wagner May 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Thank you for this enlightening article and the whole series. Assemblywoman Gonzalez ROCKS!
May we see these whales freed ~


jeremy May 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm

The unfortunate thing will be when SW decides since the sister and brother are so attached and the mother and son are so attached that we will see another Dr.Frankenstine inbreeding experiment between the three. Thanks for the column.


jeannie May 20, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Thank you for these articles…..shared on Facebook. I’ll be there Saturday.


Elizabeth Jacobelly May 20, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Thanks Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez for doing your research and being a voice for the orcas. I hope Makani has a better life than his father Kshamenk. I hope he gets to stay with his family and will be release with them to a sea pen one day. Great writing of all the San Diego 10 and telling their stories Cara.


Martha Sullivan May 21, 2014 at 8:32 pm

A good week for the evolution of our species: 1) San Diego International Airport WILL allow an anti-captivity ad urging people to not visit SeaWorld; 2) Taco Bell is ending its promotion of SeaWorld; 3) our National Aquarium in Baltimore is seriously considering retiring its dolphins and creating the U.S.’s first seaside sanctuary; 4) an abusive dolphinarium in Rimini, Italy, is denied permit renewal and is closing.


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: