Saturday, December 31, 2011

My New Year's Wish

In a world where people still starve, dictators still reign, greed runs rampant, and acrimony is a synonym for governance; where cancer is unvanquished, women are still raped, relatives kill each other, and children are abducted and murdered; where ethics are ignored, amorality is rewarded, infidelity is flaunted, and secularism prevails; it is hard for those of us who care, to know where to begin in our caring.

It is understandable then, that so few of the good and decent citizens of the world are willing to invest their time, and financial and emotional resources to save the whales and dolphins who share this tiny blue space marble with us. There are so many other equally just causes and so many unfilled needs. But that does not stop those of us who do care about these intelligent and sentient creatures from hoping that others will join us in condemning the cruelty and depravity of Japanese, Icelandic, and Norwegian whalers who slaughter whales on the high seas; or the avarice and callousness of the owners and employees of Sea World and other parks like it who keep Orcas, and Belugas, and Bottlenose Dolphins trapped in tiny tanks for the amusement of ignorant and uncaring audiences.

And so as we stand together on the doorstep of 2012 and beyond, while I wish for the future salvation of whales and dolphins from persecution by man, I urge the rest of you to care about something; anything worthwhile. Take up some noble banner be it feeding the world, or curing cancer, or educating children, or protecting the innocent from evil: if you don't then what will be your legacy? When your days here are done will you be able to look back on your life and say I mattered; I counted; I stood for something important? If so, you will leave the world a better place and that, my friend, is a greater epitaph than any amount of fame or fortune.

I am going to take some time off from writing this blog. I am not sure when I will be back. Until then good luck and God bless...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Good Tidings To Some But Not All

In their op-ed article in last Sunday's New York Times, titled, "War Really Is Going Out of Style," Joshua S. Goldstein and Steven Pinker expressed the view that mankind is gradually turning away from war. They proposed that "...our growing repugnance toward institutionalized violence..." is perhaps the primary cause and noted that "...cannibalism, human sacrifice, heretic-burning, chattel slavery, punitive mutilation, sadistic executions..." have largely disappeared from the face of the earth. Sadly, they are wrong.

In this time of year when over one third of the population of the earth, and eight out of ten Americans, celebrate the birth of Christ, the thought that war may be a thing of the past must give hope to us all. It should also make us even more appreciative of the nobility, sense of duty, and sacrifice demonstrated by the men and women who have served in our armed forces. And yet, even as we thank them and look upon our fellow human beings through the eyes of peace, it is sad to note that the very acts that Messrs. Goldstein and Pinker cite as fading from our pan-global repertoire are still painfully evident in our treatment of the whales and dolphins with which we share the earth.

Despite the good tidings that men and women of faith everywhere feel at Christmas, the most intelligent and sentient beings on the planet, next to man, still suffer the brunt of mankind's millennia-long love affair with violence, brutality, and killing. In great numbers, they are still slaughtered, butchered, consumed, enslaved, mistreated, mutilated, and executed by us: and for that we are a lesser people and this is a lesser world. That any animal should be made to suffer is inexcusable; but where the victims of such vile acts possess an awareness of self and family that is arguably equal to ours, the infliction of such suffering is abhorrent.

Perhaps one day, on some Christmas Eve in the future, the good tidings that we feel toward our fellow men will apply equally to these beautiful and beleaguered creatures of the deep. Until then, those of us who care deeply about these magnificent beings that are relentlessly hunted by Japanese, Icelandic, and Norwegian whaling fleets, or confined in tiny concrete tanks for our amusement by Sea World and other fun parks like them, will continue to speak out against the depravity of the few and the apathy of the many.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 19, 2011

US Law Firm Takes Blood Money

Under the American system of justice even killers who commit the most heinous acts, such as the rape and murder of children, are entitled to legal representation. This is a necessary and fundamental precept of democracy. Accordingly, there are some in the legal profession who must take on this morally repugnant task; however, the role of 'public defender' is not one with universal appeal to law school graduates. And even in the case where a defendant charged with such acts of brutality has the resources to hire the best legal counsel, many law firms choose to decline such an assignment.

This conundrum holds true for those evil and cowardly human beings who commit acts of extreme cruelty to animals; they too must be defended. However, it is disappointing to note that the Seattle law firm of Miller Nash has agreed to represent Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) in its law suit against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS). The suit seeks to enjoin Paul Watson's group from "acts of violence", which the Japanese claim caused them to cut short last year's whale hunt. Why any American law firm would wish to act on behalf of the Japanese whalers who massacre these magnificent creatures is perplexing; but in the case of Miller Nash it is even more so since the firm prides itself in its commitment to protecting the natural environment, and actively supports 'no kill' animal shelters.

One is left to wonder, what were the partners thinking in accepting the ICR as a client? Can they truly draw a distinction between killing cats and dogs in shelters, versus whales on the high seas? Or is it that the blood money was just too rich to decline? How sad. How cold. How cruel.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tsunami Blood Money

Adding tragedy to tragedy, the Japanese government has admitted that some of the public funds earmarked to help rebuild the areas devastated by last March's tsunami will be used to increase the security for its whaling fleet. While the government works towards the abolition of the worldwide ban on commercial whaling (along with Iceland and Norway), it is defiantly continuing its barbaric practice of whaling under the guise of 'research'. And in an attempt to thwart the anti-whaling efforts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, some tsunami relief money is being used to add an unspecified number of coast guard ships to accompany the whaling fleet on their annual voyage of butchery to the Southern Ocean.

So all of you decent and humane citizens of the world who donated your hard earned money to help the beleaguered peoples of Japan recover from the devastating earthquake and tidal wave have unknowingly contributed to the massacre of thousands of whales. Obviously, it is too late to take your donations back: the only thing those of us who care about whales and dolphins can do is shake our heads in silent sympathy for the magnificent, intelligent, and sentient beings who are about to be slaughtered in those cold and unforgiving Antarctic waters.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Whale Poop and Sushi

What's the difference between whale poop and sushi? About $5,000 a pound. Ba-dum-bum CHING!

In the world of whales and dolphins where the news is almost always sad or bad or both, I thought we could all use a little smile...but before I explain let's have a look at today's gloomy headlines:-

*the Japanese whaling fleet is back down in the Southern Ocean slaughtering whales again while their government has increased funding for this butchery masquerading as 'research.'
* the young female Orca (named Morgan by the Dutch people) has been transferred to a sea park in the Canary Islands after a court rejected pleas by animal rights groups to free her.
* veterinarians at SeaWorld claim that close human contact is good for their captive Orcas. Of course, the threat of being fired has nothing to do with this ridiculous and disingenuous claim.
* the seas off the Faroe Islands are running red with blood once again as islanders partake in their annual bloodfest in which Pilot Whales are massacred in the surf.

And so on, and so on; whenever and wherever whales come in contact with man, the news is rarely good. Which brings me back to the matter of whale poop and sushi. If you thought the answer to my opening one-liner was that raw fish and cooked rice demanded the higher price, you'd be wrong. It is the poop, at least as far as Sperm Whales are concerned. This dark, waxy material, known as ambergris that is excreted by these magnificent squid hunters has been the stuff of legends ever since whalers first went to sea with murder on their minds.

Over the centuries it has been used variously as food (yuk), an aphrodisiac (ya baby), incense (really?), a cure for migraines (both cause and cure?) and much more; but its use in perfume is what generates the big bucks. When fresh, it smells like cow slurry (just ask a dairy farmer) but after it's aged it takes on a pleasant aroma in its own right and also prevents the perfume's scent from fading.

But before you run down to the seashore and start searching for Sperm Whale poop, you should know that it's illegal to sell it in the US; so if you find some just put it in a bucket of sea water for about a year and then you can make your own perfume (if every brainless female celeb can do it, why not you?), but don't be surprised if your neighbors all move away.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Swim For Your Life

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends regular exercise for women during pregnancy, including running. Some pregnant women have even been known to run marathons while in their third semester. However because the strain that extreme exercise places on the mother and her unborn child, some OB/GYNs recommend swimming rather than running as a way for pregnant women to stay in shape. Regardless of whether a human female chooses to run or swim, at least she never has to face what her Bottlenose Dolphin counterpart does, where extreme exertion can literally mean the difference between life and death.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, and reported by Victoria Gill, a science reporter for BBC Nature, pregnant Bottlenose Dolphins have their top swimming speed cut nearly in half. The research states that while a non-pregnant dolphin can swim at more than 14mph, late in their twelve month pregnancy this is reduced to 8mph.

It should be noted that according to other expert sources, the top speed of Bottlenose Dolphins is estimated to be 20mph; however, the reduction in swimming speed cited in the JEB study likely holds true. And the brutal significance of this fact is starkly evident when you consider that the three main predators of Bottlenose Dolphins, namely, Transient Orcas, Great White Sharks, and Tiger Sharks, can swim at least as fast as a non-pregnant dolphin, and in the case of Orcas, much, much faster (32mph).

Thus, while it is generally considered a good thing for a human female who runs regularly to slow her pace during pregnancy, just the opposite is true for her dolphin counterpart. So to all Bottlenose Dolphin mothers-to-be, we say swim, lady swim...for your life!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Orcas On Vacation

Each winter millions of human beings migrate to warmer climes; some to seek a brief respite from the pressures of everyday life back home; others to indulge the senses with food, drink, and companionship; and most just to sit under a warm sun and vegetate. This latter activity invariably ends up with painful sunburns and peeling skin; an unwelcome consequence of too much of a good thing done too fast. But to the Killer Whales who spend most of their lives in the frigid waters off Antarctica shedding their skin is precisely what they seek when they too leave winter far behind.

According to a study reported in ScienceDaily*, one type of Orcas regularly travel from the Southern Ocean to the tropical waters off South America. It seems that living in those icy polar seas contributes to the growth of yellowish algae on their skin, and the Orcas' migration north helps rid them of their old skin and with it the algae. What is even more remarkable is that like their human counterparts, these trips are relatively brief. One Orca was monitored taking the 5,000 mile return trip in just 42 days. (Of course very few of us ever get a 6 week vacation, unless you live in France that is).

So the next time you find yourself sitting on some sunny, pristine beach shedding your skin just think, out there beyond the thin blue line that separates our world from theirs, there may be some big black and white member of the dolphin family doing exactly the same thing.

* J.W. Durban, R. L. Pitman. Antarctic killer whales make rapid, round-trip movements to subtropical waters: evidence for physiological maintenance migrations? Biology Letters, 2011: DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0875

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Shadow Over Switzerland

Switzerland has had a long history of neutrality in times of conflict. It has not entered an international war since 1815. Its government is actively involved in peace keeping missions around the globe, and it is the birthplace of the Red Cross. And yet with such an impressive record of non-aggression against humankind, it is hard to understand how the Swiss government, and the Swiss people, can allow the inhumane treatment of another species that comes closest to man in terms of intelligence, sentience, and non-aggression; the dolphin.

Two hours by train outside Basel is a fun park called Conny Land that boasts of having Europe's finest open-air dolphin lagoon. Claiming to offer fun and entertainment for the whole family, the park's owners fail to mention that over the past three years seven of their dolphins have died; and the circumstances of the most recent death are particularly distressing. Over the objections of German animal activist organizations, ProWal, and The Whale and Dolphin Protection Society, the owners of the park allowed a two-day techno rave to be put on within yards of the dolphin lagoon. Animal experts believe this resulted in the death of an eight year old dolphin that had been healthy up until the rave. It also likely caused unknown and unknowable distress to the other dolphins in the lagoon.

Certainly the veterinarian and trainers at the park know that dolphins have particularly acute hearing; not only through their internal ears but also via their complex echolocation capability. And yet they allowed the rave to take place anyway. ProWal recorded noise levels of over 100 decibels outside the park; clearly beside to the lagoon it would have been much louder. Moreover, sound travels 4.5 times faster under water than in air, so for two days these poor creatures were subjected to what for us would be like standing beside a roaring jet engine for 48 hours.

Such cruel disregard for the dolphins' well-being goes beyond the pale and the Swiss people should be ashamed. Ironically, the name that had been given to the dolphin that died was Shadow; and that is exactly what has fallen over that otherwise peace-loving nation.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jona and the Whale

No. That's not a typo. I'm not sure what the female version of the name 'Jonah' is so dropping the 'h' will have to do. Most of you are familiar with the bible story of Jonah being swallowed by a whale.

"Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah..."
Jonah 1:17 King James Bible

Well, last week off Santa Cruz, California, a bikini clad woman on a surfboard and several kayakers came close to acting out the bible story, when two feeding Humpback Whales shot up out of the water, mouths agape, mere yards away from them. (If you haven't seen it on YouTube, go and view it). Setting aside the fact that the woman and her fellow gawkers were violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act, had the whales been any closer the consequences could have been deadly. Unlike Jonah who apparently survived his ordeal, had the woman been knocked off her surfboard and swallowed it is unlikely she would have survived.

Humpback Whales do not eat humans (no whales or dolphins do), but with an enormous mouth that can hold 500 gallons of water and 400 fingernail-like baleen plates hanging from the upper jaw that strain thousands of pounds of krill with each gulp, she would have met a terrifying death. Hopefully, she and her boating companions have learned a lesson and will stay away from whales in the future. Arguably the worst part of this story is that the whale would probably have died too, with the body of a stupid human being stuck in his throat.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Love and Hate In New Jersey

I love New Jersey. I lived there for fifteen years and the Shore brought my wife and I together. The state has given the country more than its fair share of noteworthy people. How can you not love and/or admire Frank Sinatra, Franki Valli, Queen Latifah, Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Count Basie, Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., Captain Iván Castro (blinded in Iraq but still serving in the Army) and all the brave men and women in our military, William Brennan, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Bill Parcells, Franco Harris, Shaquille O'Neal, Al Leiter, Dana Bash, Andrew Napolitano, and Chris Christie (whether you're a Republican or Democrat he's a breath of fresh air in a world of idiots and double talkers). The list goes on and on and these are just a few of the names most of you will recognize.

However, there is a news story from the Garden State that makes me sick to my stomach. It's about a pathetic excuse for a human being, quite possibly a New Jerseyan (but let's hope not), who deserves nothing but your scorn and anger. He (I assume it's a man because I can't believe a woman would do something as cruel as this) is the slime ball who a month ago fired a .30 caliber bullet into the jaw of a Short-Finned Pilot Whale in the waters off the Shore. This beautiful, intelligent and sentient being suffered in agony for several weeks, until finally succumbing to infection and starvation, and beaching himself near Allenhurst where he died.

The National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement is looking for this depraved coward, and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction. If caught, he will be subject to a fine of $100,000 and a one year prison term (should be longer) for violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It is my fervent wish and prayer that he gets what is coming to him. Perhaps, if we are very lucky, one day he will fall overboard and meet a Great White Shark, up close and personal. We can only hope...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Morgan's Unconquerable Soul...

If you have been following the story about the young female Orca rescued last year off the coast of the Netherlands and held ever since in a small tank in a marine park in Harderwijk, the latest news is not good. The Dutch government has finally issued their ruling in which they rejected the plea by animal rights groups to try to reunite the Orca, who was given the name Morgan, with her family in the wild. Instead the court ordered that she be transferred to an animal park in the Canary Islands.

If you have read my earlier postings on this story, you know that I believe Morgan was doomed either way. The chances of finding her family pod were remote and without them she would have faced certain death alone in the North Sea. Equally dismal, however, are her prospects for living a normal life in the Tenerife marine park since the average life expectancy of Orcas in captivity is ten years compared to fifty or longer in the wild. (An inconvenient truth that the management and owners of these parks, like Sea World, conveniently omit from their PR campaigns.)

In the end, this is just one more sad tale about what happens when the world of whales and dolphins intersects with that of humans; a collision that nearly always proves fatal for the intelligent and sentient beings who dwell in the Seven Seas. Goodbye Morgan. To paraphrase William Ernest Henley's poem Invictus:

Out of the fate that awaits you,
Trapped in a watery hellhole,
We pray whatever gods may be
For your unconquerable soul.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Different Kind of Evil

For those of you who follow this blog I apologize for the two week gap in my postings. Right after my last commentary, I inadvertently downloaded some malicious software onto my computer that temporarily left me deaf, blind, and mute in cyberspace. I assure you that I came by this nasty stuff innocently and must have picked it up on one of the presumably legitimate websites I canvass for material for this blog (which one I do not know and it is likely that the keepers of the site don't even realize that a snake lurks in their woodpile). It is a sad testimonial to our time that a force of evil exists out there in the hearts and souls of some pathetic human beings who find pleasure in harming others in this fashion. While these lowlifes may not have degenerated to the same level of depravity as those who rape, maim, or murder, they are still the slime under the rock of humanity; and they deserve whatever fate lies in store for them in the living hell into which all evil must eventually devolve.

That said, I am deeply saddened to note the recurrence of a different kind of evil; that which arises from the misplaced Chauvinism of the Japanese government, which both condones and fosters the continued existence of their nation's whaling fleet. As spring returns to the Southern Ocean, the Japanese fleet is sailing once again to continue the insanely cruel slaughter of the largest and most magnificent beings God ever created. Under the ludicrous guise of "research" they will spread the precious life's blood of a thousand doomed whales upon the pristine waters of those far off seas. That such an advanced and otherwise civilized nation like Japan continues this barbaric practice is due to one reason and one reason alone; it is because they see the world's outcry for them to stop as an imperialistic assault on their culture. And until the good and decent people of Japan raise their voices against this misguided and malicious sense of nationalism, the butchery will continue unabated.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Arrogance, Intolerance, and Stupidity

Before the Sea World/OSHA hearings were adjourned, the fun park's executives stated that they intended to put trainers back into the water with Orcas in the future. They claimed that such "water work" is essential for the emotional well-being of these highly sociable animals.

Wait! What? Say that again. It is incredible that the presumably intelligent human beings who own and operate Sea World could proffer such a deceitful and self-serving defense. If indeed they truly cared about the 'well-being of these highly sociable animals' they would not imprison them in tiny concrete tanks where their dorsal fins droop, their minds grow numb, and their souls die even sooner than their bodies (the average life expectancy of a captive Orca is 10 years versus 50+ in the wild).

Are these men and women so obsessed with greed that they have lost every shred of decency and humanity that their parents taught them as little children? The arrogance, intolerance, and stupidity of Sea World's owners and management are a sad testimonial to the ignobility of which we humans are capable.

It is all so very, very sad.

Monday, September 26, 2011

We Can Kill Their Souls

This past week in a U.S. District Court in Orlando, Florida, attorneys for the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defended the government's job safety citations against Sea World. The government claims that the fun park's management operated an unsafe work environment for its employees who work with Orcas. At issue was the tragic death last year of a Sea World trainer in the jaws of Tilikum, a six ton male Orca that had been involved in two previous human deaths.

As might be expected, the fun park's attorneys vigorously defended their client, claiming the woman's death was simply an unfortunate accident in which Tilikum unintentionally drowned her after her long ponytail drifted into his mouth. Government witnesses countered that the huge dolphin (yes, Orcas are dolphins not whales) grabbed her arm not her hair, and attacked her viciously causing injuries far too graphic to repeat here. As in all such legal cases of "we say, they say" the truth is hard to determine; and in fairness to Sea World's legal counsel, they are not being paid to find the truth, only to defend their client's definition of what the truth is.

Testimony will not resume again until mid-November; however, one salient fact is clear, a loving and lovely young woman is dead, and her killer remains trapped in a tiny concrete tank barely twice as long as his body. This troubled behemoth is freed only briefly to perform stupid tricks before audiences who are either oblivious to the cruelty inherent in the actions of his mercenary owners, or apathetic to them. Keeping Orcas in captivity is a tragedy of limitless proportions and I think Ms. Diane McNally, a cetacean rights activist and writer, said it best in her recent Victoria Times Colonist article titled, "Orcas wont' eat us, but we can kill their souls" (see link below).

Sea World is killing the souls of every Orca they keep, and each time the public goes to one of their fun parks they become accomplices to Sea World's crimes of crass and commercial inhumanity. Perhaps one day, after the lawyers have gone home, and the trainers have gone back in the water, and the next human being is killed by one of these tormented souls, then maybe finally, we the people will rise up and say, Enough!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Lesser Evil

Sad news: reported today that a young female Orca has died after being stranded near the Whangaparaoa Peninsula approximately 25 km north of Auckland. A necropsy will be performed at Massey University's Albany campus to determine the cause of death, however, it appears that the Orca was emaciated.

Did you ever wonder why stranding seems to be such a pervasive and tragic ending to the lives of so many whales and dolphins. Clearly there is evidence that sonar from navy ships is a contributing factor, especially in mass stranding. However, at least in the case of a single stranding, I sometimes wonder that when a whale or dolphin senses the end is near, they choose to strand themselves rather than face the alternatives.

There are a million ways for a mammal to die and we, the arrogant and ignoble two-legged variety, are directly responsible for the deaths of countless millions of other mammals each year; including those with two- and four-legs as well as flippers and fins. However, if I were an Orca roaming wild and free, (NOT trapped at Sea World) and I felt the cold fingers of death approaching, I think I would choose the lesser evil of dying alone on some sandbar or mud bank rather than drown or be torn apart by sharks. Wouldn't you?

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Blueblood and the Beast

Two recently released studies with Bottlenose Dolphins provide further evidence of their intelligence and sentience.

Jennifer Viegas of Discovery News reported on a study by Peter Madsen at Denmark's Aarhus University that shows that dolphins communicate with each other using a complex physiological process, involving the vibration of connective tissue in their nasal cavities. It is virtually identical to that used by humans in speech and it provides further evidence that the sounds they make are far more complex than the human ear can detect or the human brain can comprehend.

Another study conducted by Joan Gonzalvo at the Tethys Research Institute in Milan, Italy, and reported by Rowan Hooper in the New Scientist, reveals that dolphins clearly understand death and react to it in a profoundly personal manner, especially when it involves their young. Anthropomorphic concerns aside, what is more 'human-like' than mourning the death of a child?

They talk like us, they grieve like us, and yet we still imprison them in tiny concrete tanks and force them to perform stupid animal tricks for our amusement. Or even worse, we slaughter them like the fishermen in Taiji, Japan, are doing right now.

So you tell me, who is the blueblood and who is the beast?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brutal Facts About Captive Orcas

* The average adult American drives 32 miles a day and is free to travel around the world.
* An adult Orca in the wild can swim 100 miles a day and is free to travel around the world.
* An Orca at Sea World can swim 50 yards across the show tank before having to turn around.

* The area of an average American home is 2,700 square feet.
* The area of the world's oceans is 139 million square miles.
* The minimum area set by the government for a captive Orca's tank is 1,800 square feet, with a diameter of 48 feet. An average adult Orca is 24 feet long. (Proportionally, this is the same size as cells for murderers on death row).

* The average life span for an American is 78 years.
* In the wild, Orcas can live up to 80 years.
* In captivity, Orcas have an average life span of 10 years.

You tell me, is keeping Orcas in captivity cruel and unusual punishment? If you agree that it is, here is what you can do about it:

* First, stop going to Sea World or marine parks like it. And tell two friends to stop, and have them tell two friends. Soon the message will reach thousands of like-minded people.
* Second, express your views on Facebook or YouTube or on any and every forum to anyone who will listen.
* Third, teach your children that to keep intelligent and sentient beings in tiny cement tanks barely twice as long as their bodies, and force them to perform stupid animal tricks for our entertainment is wrong. Just plain wrong.
* Fourth, write your Representative or Senator and ask them to introduce a bill in Congress to outlaw the keeping and breeding of Orcas in captivity. (For those of you outside the U.S. do this with your respective government representatives.)

Releasing captive Orcas into the wild is problematic and most likely a death sentence. As such, those already in captivity are doomed either way. However, if we stop going to Sea World and to all the parks like it; and/or if the government outlaws this inhumane practice, then the owners and management will stop breeding them or buying them. They will be forced to end the shows and allow their captives to live out the rest of their lives in peace. And eventually, in 10 years or so, there will be no Orcas left suffering in cement tanks anywhere in the world.

NOTE: I will be traveling for a few weeks and unable to post. I'll see you on the flip side.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gloomy Update On Captive Orca

My previous posting noted the sad story of a young female Orca captured a year ago in the North Sea and kept in a small cement tank at the Dolfinarium at Harderwijk in Amsterdam ever since. Animal rights activists have brought legal action against the Dolfinarium to prevent them from selling her to an amusement park in Spain and the matter is currently under review by a Dutch court. The Orca was given the name 'Morgan' which means 'from the sea' in old Welsh but it is unlikely she will ever see the ocean again.

Unfortunately, the latest news out of Amsterdam is not good. According to a report by the Dolfinarium's management have still not moved Morgan into a larger tank with other dolphins as ordered by the judge, and New Zealand Orca expert, Dr. Ingrid Visser, believes Morgan's mental state is deteriorating rapidly.

That she might be going insane should not come as a surprise to anyone who cares about these magnificent beings. It is a fate suffered by many other captive Orcas who lead foreshortened lives of mind-numbing boredom, physical distress, and mental anguish at sea parks around the globe.

The harsh reality is that this little Orca's future is dim whether she is released or not, and time is running out...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Captive Orcas: Doomed Either Way...

Pending further study, a court in Amsterdam has blocked the sale of a young female Orca (named Morgan by the Dutch) to a Spanish amusement park but the court stopped short of ordering her to be returned to the North Sea where the then-sick animal was rescued a year ago. While freeing Morgan instead of condemning her to a life sentence in a concrete tank in Spain is a romantic notion, the harsh reality is that this resilient little being is doomed either way.

These are highly social animals: their family group is everything to them; providing food, comfort, and safety, to the exclusion of Orcas from different pods. As such, even if the court rules in favor of Morgan's release, the likelihood of her handlers being able to find her family group is slim: barring that, she has little chance of surviving on her own. Arguably, the alternative is even worse.

Female Orcas can live 80 years in the wild but only 10 years on average in captivity. There are over 40 Killer Whales in marine parks around the globe; two-thirds of these are owned by Sea World. While the Company's management and owners wax eloquent about how their actions have contributed to mankind's knowledge about the species, the truth is that captive Orcas are big business, pure and simple. If millions of people didn't spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year gawking at Orcas as they perform stupid animal tricks, we wonder how quickly Sea World's corporate altruism would fade?

Whether a Killer Whale is captured in the wild and sold into captivity, or born there, they lead foreshortened lives of mind-numbing boredom, physical distress, and emotional anguish. On several occasions, this has led to Orcas killing their trainers as happened at Sea World Orlando last year when a 12,000-pound male named Tilikum attacked his trainer, drowning her. It was the third such death involving this particular animal.

Sadly, Morgan is doomed no matter which way the Dutch court rules. And meanwhile, the owners of Sea World, and all the other marine parks like it around the world, keep raking in the money...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Dolphin, Heal Thyself.

"Physician, heal thyself:" Many of you (well, perhaps some of you) are familiar with this proverb spoken by Jesus (Luke 4:23, King James Bible). One interpretation of the full quote in which these words appear is that we should attend to our own failings before criticizing others. (Sadly, this is something that the President and the Congress currently seem oblivious to.) Yet another more literal interpretation is simply that human physicians, while helping others, are often unable to help themselves.

In stark contrast to our own failings as a species, both behavioral and physiological, it appears that dolphins are capable of doing just that. A recent study by a scientist at the Georgetown University Medical Center, as reported by Science Daily (reference below), has indicated that dolphins possess a remarkable ability to quickly heal from serious injuries such as shark bites without suffering infection or significant bleeding, and with apparent indifference to pain. Moreover, as these injuries heal, there is almost complete restoration of their normal body contour.

This is yet another indication of the magic and majesty of dolphins; but even as I say this, the people of Taiji, Japan, are preparing for their annual harvest of dolphins in which they will brutally slaughter 2,000 of these innocent beings. Need I say more about the contrast between our two species?

Reference: Georgetown University Medical Center (2011, July 25). Dolphins' 'remarkable' recovery from injury offers important insights for human healing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2011, from­ /releases/2011/07/110721095834.htm

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Evil Eye of Envy

Two recent news stories provide further evidence of the intelligence and sentience of whales and dolphins, while the reaction of some to the stories confirms the ignorance and arrogance of man.

In the first case, which occurred recently off the coast of California, a humpback whale that had been entangled in fishing nets breached 40 times around the boat of the three men who had cut the nets and saved the whale from certain death. The men interpreted this behavior as an act of both joy and thanks. The second incident, this one in Australia, was sadder but no less revealing. In it, a pod of dolphins surrounded the body of a young man who had tragically fallen into a harbor and drowned. One of the dolphins was seen trying to push the man back to the surface, apparently in a vain attempt to try to save him. These are just two of the many examples of whales and dolphins displaying thoughtful behavior toward humans, several of which have been featured in this blog (e.g., May 10, 2010 & July 31, 2009 postings).

And yet, as touching and telling as these stories are to most of us, they always evoke vitriolic reactions on the part of others who seem threatened by the possibility that humans are not the only thinking and feeling beings on earth. That has proven to be true once again, judging by the angry comments posted on each of these news stories disavowing any anthropomorphic interpretation of the actions by this whale and dolphin. Thankfully, these unhappy few who see the world through the evil eye of envy, and who are afflicted by some deep psychological need for schadenfreude, are the exception not the rule. For those of us who are comfortable with our own place in the universe, and who rejoice in the magic and majesty of whales and dolphins, such stories stir the spirit and soothe the soul.