Free Morgan the Orca!!!

Three years ago, a young orca was rescued off the coast of the Wadden Sea. In claims of rehabilitating the whale, an aquarium, Dolfinarium Harderwijk, brought her in. She was given the name “Morgan,” meaning inhabitant of the sea in Dutch. After a couple months in captivity it soon became apparent that the Dolfinarium had an ulterior motive for keeping Morgan. Many experts agreed that Morgan was ready to be released, but the aquarium kept her confined in the world’s smallest orca tank, a mere bathtub to a species that moves over 100km a day in the wild. She performed tricks for the public as SeaWorld officials who monitored her progress claimed she was unreleasable.

Enraged, animal activists sought legal action to free Morgan through the Orca Coalition, but the court declared the aquarium’s actions were legal, although false information was presented. An appeal to the hearing was made later in November 2011, but Morgan was sent to Loro Parque (a marine park in Spain) under the pretense and excuse of “education,” the same one SeaWorld uses to defend its corporation. Animal activists argue that there is nothing educational about unnatural behaviors performed in an unnatural environment and that it teaches the youth that it’s okay to imprison animals for entertainment – not exactly my idea of conservation.

At Loro Parque, where all of Sea World’s “excess” orcas are sent, Morgan has been attacked by the other orcas there, an unnatural behavior for female orcas in the wild (only male orcas have extensive rake marks). These rake marks on her melon show the frustration and violence orcas display in a captive environment on themselves and their trainers. In the wild, there has never been an attack on a human and orcas live in highly complex social structures, torn apart with solitary confinement and human control over all social interactions.

Last year, Morgan was unwillingly placed in a tank with Keto, an effort by the aquarium to get her pregnant at the age of 5-7. The natural age of pregnancy in the wild is an average of 14 (based on survey taken in 2005) and a range of 10-21. Activists claim that SeaWorld is using these animals as breeding machines, ejaculating sperm and artificially inseminating orcas to produce more captive animals to profit off of. It should be noted that SeaWorld legally owns Morgan and the court rulings would most likely have been different had the judges known this.

In 2012, another court hearing was made by the Orca Coalition to free Morgan, claiming that Morgan was legally releasable and that the aquariums holding her have provided false information. One such example is the claim by trainers that Morgan is deaf. But this was a complete lie, as shown on a YouTube video in which she responds to an audio signal after the report was made. Yet the judges still ruled that Morgan’s confinement was legal.

On December 3rd, an appeal of the previous ruling will take place in Den Haag of the Netherlands. The Dutch government owes it to its people to right the wrong the previous one has done and take into account all information truthful and honest. But beyond a legal sense, Morgan has become “a ward of the Dutch people to be held in public trust by the Dutch Government until she could be released back to the sea, to rejoin her real mother” (DutchNews.nl). India has declared cetaceans to be “non-human persons” and has banned dolphinariums in their country. It is time for us to raise our voices and take a stand for those that cannot speak for themselves. May Morgan finally be released and rejoin her family – which has been found!

“No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.”
-Jacques Yves Cousteau

© Zach Affolter 12/2/2013

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In Lack’ech (The Source and End is You) – An Essay on Entertainment

Gladiator GsmrdThroughout the ages of time, men have sought the means to enrich and perfect their lives. Thinking only of themselves, they laid waste to the land. They searched for slaves to do the work, animals to entertain them, and money, money, and more money from the inferior. Great palaces were built in place of trees, the natural beauty of earth was smothered. Dressed in the finest of robes, they gathered into a building that stood in Rome. A great show was in store that night, lions and bears, oh my! But first, it was man versus man in the world famous Gladiator games. They charged at each other upon slaving horses, the crowd loudly roaring. Cheering on the death of the warrior now kneeling on his knees, they clapped and merrily screamed as they motioned downwards with their thumb.

The collector of the fares was safe outside collecting the gold while the blood of the fallen warrior formed a lake on the ground. Somehow, having the power to control the life and death of another gave the most enriching experience to the audience. Every day they gathered by the thousands to watch the warriors slice each other to death. They roared and applauded, never stopping, never opening their eyes.

Then one day, it suddenly all came to an end. Rome had fallen, the city now in cinders. It seemed the pride and physical strength of the glorious civilization had blinded them; the soldiers had lost the fight. But the same lust for entertainment would survive, more money and more lakes made.

The Gladiator Games were one of the first sources of full-scale entertainment, but they were certainly not the last. Whenever one injures another for the amusement of others, greed will be their ultimate downfall. Religious as they were, the people were so fearful of not going to heaven. Yet atrocities such as this, brutal wars, and slavery still existed? It seems to me that over time religion became an excuse for those in power to oppress those who were not. This statement applies most generously with circuses. Animals were believed to be the spawn of the devil, so naturally religion provided the perfect excuse to make the suffering of, say elephants (a species nearly as intelligent as us by the most commonly misused definition), acceptable. And acceptable it was. The “religious ways” of the older generation were passed to the new, embedding in their minds that a perfect world existed, nothing needed to change; their ways were okay. But it was all just an illusion, a trick to keep those from finding the truth and speaking up against it. Those who did stand up were ridiculed, beaten, whipped, and sentenced to death under the crime of heresy to infuse a fear that would prevent rebellion. That would prevent the master from obtaining that dang dime!!!

And boy did they succeed. The ways of entertainment still live on today. Television, zoos, aquariums. We just don’t get it. We believe the excuses the greedy make: “oh it’s educational, it’s good for the economy, it’s fun.” Well, tell me this: Would you find it fun if you let your own child suffer just so you could buy a new car with a sweet ride? Would you sell yourself, would you want to be a slave just so someone can profit off you because it’s fun? Just because something is acceptable in society does not mean that it’s ok!!! Slavery was accepted, and now we see that as unethical. And abusing sentient beings for entertainment is not? Stop believing the lies of those trying to make a quick buck!!!

So now in 617 words we have come full circle from the beginnings of selfish entertainment to its manifestation in present society. Selfishly venomous, mankind takes, cheers, takes more, and cheers again, poisoning the planet. Their vicious and vile ways will come back to haunt them, and their greed will be their downfall. They must open their eyes to the world around them. It is already happening – ozone depletion, global warming, the oceans are dying while overfilling the bathtub humans call “the perfect world.” The Mayan civilization predicted the world would end. Perhaps they will be right, not in the context of 2012, but in our own destruction of it. They have a saying, and I suggest you pay attention. It means that we must make every action count towards bringing love and peace back to Earth, because what goes around comes around. Please do not be another me (In Lack’ech).

The End

Message to Lolita

Image

As this week continues on, Lolita has now spent her 42nd year in her lonely prison cell since her traumatic capture in 1970. Therefore, I send this message to Lolita as the moon begins to rise tonight:

O unum de fera,

O unum autem Oceanus
Tokitae, 
thou erit liberum

Ut Luna dabit lumen suum
et sustento nocte clara 
Ut sidera dirige via tua
et suggeret vobis locum Circuli Vita

Ut sol sustento interius ignem ardens,
custodiens te calida a frigus
Ut Gaia vigilate super te nocte,
et revertere te ad Circuli Maioris

Translation:
Oh, one of the wild,
Oh, one of the Ocean
Tokitae,
thou shall be free

May Moon send its light
and keep your night bright with light
May the stars guide your path
and remind you of your place in the Life Circle

May Sun keep your inner fire burning,
keeping you warm from cold
May Gaia watch over you tonight,
and return you to the circle

As this week begins, Lolita has now spent her 42nd year in her lonely prison cell since her traumatic capture in 1970. Therefore, I send this message to Lolita as the moon begins to rise tonight:

Lolita, despite all odds you have remained strong for so long. Where many would give up or become bitter, you have never forgotten who you are and have never turned on us even though we have hurt you so much. Our species has become out of touch with The Great Mother; forgetting our place in The Circle of Life.

We have come to think we are alone in this world, as if nothing else exists. All of this has hurt all of us so much in the past and the present. It has corrupted our spirits, and has caused so much suffering for you and your kin. If we could gain a sense of understanding, then the suffering will end.You in your kindness and strength have made some of us realize that we were only thinking for ourselves, and not of you. It’s truly amazing how one soul can have an impact on others and even other species. I see much hope in the future; a chance for change and a world returning to its complete physical beauty once more.Inner strength is not denying who you are, it’s remembering who you are. You have always stayed connected with your pod through the shine of the moon and have kept your spirit free, even though the Stone People have tried to snuff it out like they do the captive borns.

Thank you for remaining strong all these years and inspiring all of us…I see much hope in the future; a chance for change and a world returning to its complete physical beauty once more. May the moon continue to guide the way and one day physically return you to your family and may the stars light the darkest of skies in tonight’s strife. May your soul and spirit remain free! May you forever Dance with the Moon!

SeaWorld to be Involved in Orca Necropsies, Do they Want Alaska’s Young Killer Whale?

(The last orca was found dead, see updates below)

According to Alaska’s News Source, SeaWorld is sending a veterinarian along as scientists try to determine what caused two orca deaths.  Reports vary as to whether the SeaWorld veterinarian is actually in charge as this article states, or whether that vet is being allowed to participate on a lower level – but it is odd that SeaWorld is involved at all.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska—

A killer whale expert from SeaWorld in San Diego will lead a team of four veterinarians headed to Southwest Alaska to perform necropsies on two orcas found dead in the Nushagak River near Dillingham.

According to witnesses, the trio of killer whales had been in the river for weeks, and biologists feared they would die of starvation or from spending too much time in freshwater.  The carcasses were discovered Saturday.

The team plans to perform the first necropsy on Tuesday on the whale that was found floating in the Nushagak and later moved to a bank near Dillingham.  Wednesday, the team will perform a necropsy on the other whale that was found beached further upriver.

The  third whale, a younger orca, is still missing.  It was last spotted on Saturday in the saltwater tidal area.

There are two likely explanations as to why SeaWorld would invest in sending staff to Alaska, and they are not mutually exclusive – SeaWorld may hope to somehow ensnare the missing juvenile whale for their amusement parks, and/or they may also hope to gain tissues for their artificial insemination project (see “SeaWorld Has a Vested Interest in Helping Stranded Whales and Dolphins“) from the dead animals.

Hopefully the young whale has managed to return to salt water and has already reunited with extended family members, but at this point no one knows about the type of orcas that went up the river, their culture, or their families.

One thing is certain, Alaskans aren’t likely to just let SeaWorld swoop in and take the juvenile if it comes to that, not without first getting legal documents assuring the return of the orca once it is rehabilitated.  The days when SeaWorld could just send vets in, pronounce an animal ‘non-releaseable’, then proceed to keep it without being held accountable are gone.

These whales are worth millions of dollars to amusement parks, but to Alaskans they are a priceless part of the natural world.

Update 10/15/2011, information from NOAA :

The first orca necropsied had been pregnant with a near term fetus.

Based on anatomy, the necropsy team believes the whales were of the ‘transient’, or mammal eating type.

When asked what types of tissues the SeaWorld veterinarian would take and whether Fisheries biologists would conduct independent tests, no information was available.

No information was available as to what circumstances would determine if the juvenile would be captured, other than it depends upon circumstance and the health of the whale.  When asked if a game plan had been established and if those details are available, that information was not known.

Nushagak Killer Whale Update,

Public Affairs Office
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service
Thursday, October 13, 10:45 a.m.:

A team of six veterinarians Wednesday performed a necropsy on the second killer that was found dead along the Nushagak River last weekend. The necropsy took place near Black Point, downriver from Portage Creek on the Nushagak River. Veterinarians report the killer whale was an adult female which measured 6-meters, 45-centimeters (slightly larger than the adult female examined Tuesday, which measured 6-meters, 20-centimeters). It showed signs of moderate scavenging, but no signs of human interaction. The necropsy revealed no specific indication as to cause of death. The team collected a full range of samples from the animal.

At this time, there is no specific concern that ties the deaths of the two killer whales together, but that is a question that is under investigation.

There have been no reported sightings of the third killer whale, a smaller whale thought to be a juvenile, since it was last seen swimming downriver of Portage Creek on Saturday.

The team of veterinarians plans to depart from Dillingham today, taking with them over 100 samples to be analyzed. A full necropsy report is expected in 4-6 weeks.

The public affairs official at NOAA responded to my questions on the choice of veterinary staff for the necropsies as follows:

Basically, the decision to have [SeaWorld senior veterinarian] Dr. St. Leger participate was objective, and based on two factors:

  • Credentials (qualifications and expertise on killer whales)
  • Her availability on short notice

Dr. St. Leger is also a marine mammal stranding network member, and a stranding network pathologist.

When NOAA puts together a necropsy team, we draw participants from other government agencies, academia, etc., which aids in information sharing and provides diversity on the team.

Dr. Judy St. Leger is on the board of directors at SeaWorld Conservation Fund, more information about St. Leger and SeaWorld’s board of directors can be found here.

Update 10/16/11:

NOAA UPDATE:
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Nushagak Killer Whales

The third of three killer whales that had spent at least three weeks
in the Nushagak River has been found dead. The carcass of the juvenile
killer whale was found Friday near Grass Island, an island in the
Nushagak River across from Dillingham in an area that is tidally
influenced. Based on the description of the location where the animal
was found by a local resident, biologists believe the juvenile whale
would’ve had to have swum there, rather than having been carried there
by the tide.

There is no word yet on plans for a necropsy or to collect samples
from the marine mammal carcass.