Monday, July 8, 2013

Kiska Suffers at Marineland

The captivity industry and places like Marineland and SeaWorld would have you believe their Killer Whales are happy in their artificial environments. Would you be happy to be abducted from your home and from your family and placed into what amounts to be a bath tub for the rest of your life?  Fact is they are not happy and their greatly reduced lifespans in captivity are a huge indication of such.

No tanks could ever hope to replicate the natural environments of these beautiful and intelligent mammals.  Together in their matriarchal pods orcas (Killer Whales) can swim up to 100 miles a day in the free and open ocean.  They dive down to huge depths co-operating with each other to find and hunt fresh prey all the while using echolocation and a complicated set of clicks, whistles & pulses to communicate.  They socialize and play together and are often seen breaching the surface, spyhopping and tailslapping. They live on average 50-80 years in the ocean.

In captivity orcas are bored swimming around in circles.  Orcas are extremely smart and require constant and complex stimuli which is barely provided with their daily interactions with human trainers.  They can develop serious neurosis and depression and are often medicated with a large amount of drugs stuffed into their daily diet of dead fish.  They suffer from weakened immune systems and poor dental health.  For those born into captivity their average lifepsan is even shorter had they been captured from the wild.

Orcas have deep social structures and come from different pods or clans.  In captivity they are forced to live together in incompatible social  and breeding situations and that often results in deadly clashes that don't occur in the wild.  When normal breeding does not take place the animals are bred through artificial means and with the limited bloodlines available in captivity this results in inbreeding.

Marineland has a pitiful record of Killer Whale captivity, one of the worst records in the world of any captive marine mammal facility.  They received their first orca - Kandu in the early 70's after he was captured off the coast of Washington.  Marineland stole another orca from the same area named Kandy to mate with Kandu however she died after 3 months.  Kandu would die after only 8 years in captivity, a fraction of what he would have lived in the ocean.

Both Kandu & Kandy came from what are known as L pod of the Southern Resident Killer Whales that patrol the Pacific coast of North America.  In the 1970's it was open season on this whale population as they were hunted using brutally cruel methods and without mercy just to fill the tanks of aquariums like SeaWorld Marineland & the Miami Seaquarium.

For over 25 years Marineland had some of the smallest tanks in the world where Killer Whales were held.  Some orcas also lived and died inside what is called the "warehouse" a dank windowless backstage building kept secret from the public. It  holds a small pool with barely enough room to turn around and certainly not enough room to dive.  In 1999 Marineland built new tanks for the orcas and to expand their breeding program.  Since the new tanks were built 6 orcas were born at Marineland and all of them have died living no longer than 4 and 1/2 years.  Marineland has given various reasons for the premature deaths including drowning, twisted intestines, meningitis and even immune deficiency.

Marineland was gaining a notorious reputation even among other captive facilities.  In 2010 SeaWorld terminated a longstanding breeding loan agreement with Marineland and requested their orca Ikaika (Ike) back. SeaWorld was "concerned about Ikaika's physical and psychological health" if he remained at Marineland.  Among several other concerns SeaWorld cited a lack of basic safety equipment and the absence of an simple emergency plan at Marineland.  The park refused to hand him over and SeaWorld was forced to sue Marineland in Canadian court in order to repossess their whale.  Marineland would go on to lose the case and the appeal.

Kiska is the last remaining orca at Marineland.  She has been imprisoned there since 1979 after being captured off the coast of Iceland.  She has had fives calves at Marineland and all of them are now deceased.
Kiska's former trainer Christine Santos who is one of 15 whistleblowers to expose abuse and neglect at the park described Kiska's current condition to the Toronto Star:
Kiska has never been a strong whale, according to former trainers, including Santos, who say she’s constantly on medication. Her pool is concrete with the fibreglass grates along the side and a few large rocks on the bottom.
She was captured off Iceland and developed what one former trainer called “an incredibly close” connection with Nootka, another wild-caught Icelandic whale, and “they hated to be separated.” They swam constantly together and vocalized, even having their own calls. They even supported other through labour.
Santos said Kiska began declining after her 4-year-old calf Athena, as well as Nootka, died a few years ago.
“I love her dearly,” Santos said. “I am worried about her because she is alone. She vocalizes a lot. I feel as if she is calling out for another whale.”
Santos also told the Toronto Star about serious medical conditions that Kiska endured at Marineland such as bleeding from the tail for months.  During their limited investigation of Marineland the OSPCA ordered them to begin an environmental enrichment program for their lone orca.  Keeping highly intelligent and social animals such as orcas alone in a tank is not even legal in the United States however in Canada no such laws exits.
Kiska has been alone at Marineland for nearly the two years since her temporary companion Ikaika was repossessed by SeaWorld.  With Nootka no longer there to swim and vocalize with her and all of her calves deceased, Kiska is often seen lying listlessly just below the surface of the water in her tank.
It is one of the saddest sights to be seen at Marineland.

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