Saturday, August 2, 2014

All Eyes on Kiska

This week mounting public pressure on Marineland saw the facility on the defensive over the health and care of its last remaining orca, Kiska.  Disturbing new photos and video released by several cooperating animal advocacy groups show what appears to be a decline in Kiska's health.

Captured off the coast of Iceland in 1979 Kiska has been at Marineland for over 30 years.  Moved around the facility throughout the decades she has watched all of Marineland's other orcas die including 5 of her own calves.  She now spends her time in a solitary tank with no companion.

The materials released by the advocacy groups Ontario Captive Animal Watch and Fins & Fluke show the daily teeth flushing regiment Kiska is forced to endure where trainers flush away particles from her broken, ground down and destroyed teeth.  Captive orcas often grind their teeth or chew on gates or the sides of their tank out of boredom or stress which over time results in broken or damaged teeth that require daily irrigation.  The pulp is exposed which could lead to infection so the teeth are drilled in a haphazard pulpotomy performed without anesthesia.  The drilled teeth require flushing several times a day.

The groups also released several images taken over the span of a year showing the possible deterioration of Kiska's dorsal fin as well as a depression behind her blow-hole which could be an indication of a condition commonly known as 'peanut head' indicating severe weight loss.  All photos and video have been submitted to the Ontario SPCA who say they are investigating.

Concerns for Kiska's health resulted in several articles this week as well as news reports on CBC and CHCH news.  Marineland has denied all claims calling concerns for Kiska's health 'ridiculous'.  No on-staff vet would appear on camera to defend the park's care and in the CHCH report Marineland admitted they do not have a scale to weigh Kiska.  In 2012 it was revealed in a Toronto Star investigation that Kiska's tail had been bleeding for months in a persistent health issue Marineland had difficulty dealing with and the killer whale was constantly medicated.

Marineland has one of the highest mortality rates for orcas of any aquarium in the world with 14 dying there in the last 2 decades alone resulting in the complete collapse of their captive breeding program.  In 2011 Seaworld successfully sued Marineland and repossessed their orca Ikaika over concerns about the whale's health if it remained at the Niagara Falls facility.

This past June saw a Free Kiska demonstration our front of Marineland.  Ontario Captive Animal Watch has scheduled a public demonstration at the Newmarket Ontario SPCA office on Wednesday August 6th to ask the government agency to help Canada's last remaining captive orca.  They have also released an online petition which has already garnered nearly 5,000 signatures.

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