The Southern Resident Orca pod is making a comeback after almost three years without a successful birth, There has been a bit of a boom with four calves born since December 2014. The Orca calves, known as J50, J51, J52 and L121 can been seen frequently.
On July 4, whale watchers on an Eagle Wing Tours in Victoria got a show from J50. “J50 stole the show, and hearts, with more than 60 breaches as she and her family moved south in Haro Strait,” said Clint Rivers, a naturalist and photographer. “It’s like she just figured out how this breaching thing works and couldn’t stop. She was still breaching well into the evening.”
I’ll be making my first trip to Victoria in the near future and have decided to do not one but two whale watching tours with Eagle Wing Tours! It would be amazing to see one of the new Orca calves, however just having the opportunity to see these incredible mammals on their own terms and in their environment will be an experience of a life time. Stay tuned for photos from my trip – but for now enjoy the photos below of J50
My journey to Taiji had been a year in the making. After consistently following the Cove Guardian campaign, in December of last year I made the commitment to join in the fight to be a voice for the dolphins. Becoming a Cove Guardian was an honor.
After my 30 hour trip of planes and airports I arrived in Osaka, Japan. A little bit of a culture shock for me, having only travelled within North America. Landing in a foreign country where I did not speak the language was a challenge at first, but the Japanese people are amazingly friendly and helpful!
After spending my first night in Osaka, I had the daunting task of taking the train to Taiji. I’ve never been on a train before, so having to switch trains multiple times and not being able to communicate properly, left me feeling a little stressed and nervous. Luckily, by chance I managed to meet some fellow Cove Guardians on the train! What a sigh of relief this was, meeting the first of my new Cove Guardian family and not having to make the remainder of the trip on my own! Thanks to Clive, Michelle and Bator for making the train ride a little less stressful for me!
Taiji is exactly as described by Ric O’Barry in the documentary The Cove … A twilight zone … everywhere you look there is a painting, monument or writing on the sidewalks of dolphins and whales. If you didn’t know any better you would think Taiji loved dolphins and whales.
Nothing can really prepare you for the experience of being in Taiji and it is not something that can be easily be put into words either. I am sure that each and every Cove Guardian remembers the exact moment they first saw the infamous Cove. For me, the first time was a simple glance while passing by in a car. The sight of it almost takes your breathe away, one because it really is such a beautiful place and two because you instantly remember how many dolphins and whales have lost their lives at the hands of the Taiji fisherman there. The moment I actually set foot on the shore of the Cove is something I will never forget. I literally just stood there for a few moments taking it all in and in disbelief that I was actually there. Unfortunately my first time on the shore of the Cove was also the second time I would witness a drive in process and a pod of dolphins fight for their lives and eventually lose their life for the sole purpose of human consumption. The only thing that keeps you going in moments such as this, is to pick up your camera and start taking photos, since it is the only weapon you have in Taiji.
Witnessing a pod of dolphins spending their last moments together in fear, frustration, panic and hearing those last few breathes they take as they are pushed under the tarps of killing shore is utterly heartbreaking. But I take solace in the fact that without the Cove Guardians and Operation Infinite Patience the atrocities of the Cove would continue to go unnoticed and unreported to the world and many would not know the horrible secret Taiji attempts to hide. It is because of the Cove Guardians that there is and will continue to be a constant international spotlight on the daily atrocities that are occurring in Taiji and I am proud to have been apart of this campaign.
Proudly standing on the shore of the Infamous Cove
Sitting on the rocks of the Cove. Notice the fence and keep out sign, built to prohibit a direct view into the killing cove.
Beautiful sunrise at the Cove
Proudly holding the flag in Taiji harbor as the boats come back empty handed.
After I manage to go through about 8000 photos, I will post more detailed information of my time in Taiji as a Cove Guardian.
If you have any interest in joining the Cove Guardians on the ground in Taiji, do not hesitate, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for an application. I promise you that it will be an experience of a lifetime and being surrounded by the passionate, like-minded people involved with this amazing campaign will be one of the best things you do. Take the journey to Taiji and be a voice for the voiceless!
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only that ever has.” Margaret Mead
After a pod of pilot whales spent a total of 2 days netted off in the killing cove with no access to food or water, the killers mercilessly slaughtered 16 of them. Once the killers arrived in the cove the repeatedly ran over the pod with skiffs and tethered members of the pod to the side of the cove as they awaited their fate of slaughter. Is this Taiji’s version of hunting and fishing? Starving cetaceans for 2 days and then tethering them to the cove to await their fate … this is not hunting … this is the reality of what happens between September and March of each year in Taiji.
Below are photos courtesy of the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians … who stood at the cove and witnessed this intolerable cruelty to a pod of innocent pilot whales.
This matriarch of the pilot whale pod, struggled and thrashed for 30 minutes while tethered to the rocks of the cove. Killers eventually attempt to drag the female under the tarps for slaughter.
The entire pod surrounded the matriarch as she was thrashing. The killers were unable to control the pod as they defended the matriarch of the pod.
Two pilot whales cling together as they await slaughter.
Another pilot whale, becomes entangled in the nets.
The youngest of this pod, a baby pilot whale, was badly injured throughout this process.
Pilot whale bodies being dragged into the Taiji Butcher house.
After the killing in the cove was completed the killers drove the remaining pod members back out to sea, however as reported by the Coe Guardians, 1 pod member did not fair well and its dead body was dragged back out to sea. While it may seem as though the killers showed some mercy in not slaughtering the entire pod, do not be mistaken … in the end it is all about profit and greed. The killers are given a quota for each species and with that the smaller and younger pilot whales are not worthy of fulfilling this quota. The bigger the pilot whale, the more meat and the more money it sells for … its as simple as that. Unfortunately for the remaining pod members, driven back out to sea, survival is very slim. After 2 days without food and the traumatizing experience of witnessing your family slaughtered will take its toll on these innocent cetaceans.
Please take the time to follow the Cove Guardians on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.
Also check out Call of the Cove … they have some great information on how to get involved and what you can do to help.
Only 8 days remain until the fisherman of Taiji begin another season of the annual Dolphin Drive Hunt & Slaughter
The slaughter of dolphins, porpoises and small whales occurs in Taiji, Japan each year. Starting on September 1 and usually continues through March of the next year. Fisherman herd whole families of small cetaceans into a shallow bay and mercilessly stab and drown them to death.
The dolphin drive hunts in Taiji do not just end in the killing of dolphins, Taiji is “ground zero” for the international trade in live dolphins. There is a direct link between the captive dolphin entertainment industry and the bloody waters of the Cove in Taiji. Supporting a live dolphin show or participating in a confined swim with dolphin program is supporting the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji and in return directly relates to killing of thousands of dolphins each year for human consumption. It is the dolphin entertainment industry that drive the hunt and the killing of dolphins follows in its wake. For the dolphins pulled from their families and sold into captivity, life is beyond horrible.
Once the dolphins are driven into the Cove area, they are then herded into a southern finger off the Cove. Oftern main mammal trainers from the nearby Dolphin Base and the Taiji Whale Museum wil move among the captured dolphins and select the young dolphins and those deemed “beautiful” (that is without any scarring) for the captive entertainment industry. Those not selected are pushed further into the Cove and hunters push a metal rod into the dolphin’s spinal cords. Once the rod is removed, a wooden plud is then hammered into the pole. The insertion of the rod causes paralysis, however the dolphins are stil alive and very much aware of what is happening to them and to their family members. A rope is then tied around their tails adn they are hauled out tothe waiting gutting barge by small skiffs. Most of them slowly drown and die during this towing activity.
What can you do to help:
Dolphin exploitation continues to this day because the public remains unaware of dolphin suffering. Now that you are aware, please do not fund the suffering of dolphins and cetaceans by purchasing a ticket to a dolphin show or swim with dolphin program
Educate others on the link between the Taiji dolphin slaughter and the captive dolphin entertainment industry. Discourage your family and friends from visiting dolphinariums, such as Sea World, Marineland Canada, etc., or participating in swim with dolphin programs.
With the recent release of the highly anticipated documentary, Blackfish, which provides a critical look at the family orientated Sea World’s treatment of whales, two other videos released on youtube provide further insight into Sea World’s treatment of the dolphins and whales.
Distressed Pilot Whale at Sea World: Sea World find itself under fire after trainers failed to help a distress pilot whale stuck on a slideout ledge for approximately 25 minutes. The video was caught on camera by an audience member, who has stated that his views of Sea World have been changed forever.
Peta released this statement after the release of the video: “Audiences should be horrified by every video taken inside SeaWorld,” PETA wrote in an emailed statement Monday. Whether they show a pilot whale stranded on a concrete ledge in front of a shocked crowd, an orca killing his trainer, or intelligent, sensitive whales forced to swim day in and day out in tiny circles for a reward of dead fish, these videos are a potent reminder that SeaWorld keeps marine mammals trapped in concrete tanks that bear no resemblance to their habitat in the wild, with no room in which to swim, no family groups, and no stimulation.”
Take a look at the video below and draw your own conclusions on the treatment of whales and dolphins at Sea World.
Dolphin Escapes Tank at Sea World: During a public feeding of the dolphins at Sea World, one dolphin jumped out of the tank and landed on the concrete. “I do not have children, but this is not something I would want them to see on a family vacation.” – David Kirby (deathatseaworld.com) Not only is a situation like this extrememly dangerous for the dolphin itself, as you can see in the video from the blood on the concrete, it is also an extremely dangerous situation for spectators. If a child or adult was nearby and had been injured when the dolphin jumped out of the tank, then I can assure you there would be a media storm covering this story.
If you are contmeplating or even planning a trip to Sea World in the near or distant to future, then consider this: Sea World is not a place for education on dolphins and whales. The daily shows at dolphin & whale stadium and Shamu stadium are simply that a show, designed to entertain and have absoltely no educational benefit. The dolphins and whales of Sea World and conditioned to perform tricks for your entertainment receiving dead fish as their reward and in no resemble the natural habits of a dolphin or whale in the wild.
“There is as much educational benefit in studying dolphins in captivity as there would be in studying human beings by only observing prisoners in solitary confinement.”. Jacques Cousteau
DEATH AT SEAWORLD “is a groundbreaking scientific examination that exposes the dark side of SeaWorld, America’s most beloved marine mammal park. From the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, to other, less-publicized violent incidents, journalist David Kirby puts these brutal animal-on-human attacks in context and explores the controversial and even lethal ramifications of keeping killer whales in captivity. It introduces the real people taking part in this debate, from former trainers turned animal rights activists to the men and women that champion SeaWorld and the captivity of whales. Kirby follows the story of Naomi Rose Ph.D., marine mammal scientist for The Humane Society of the United States and senior scientist for The Humane Society International, whose warnings against keeping killer whales in captivity fell on deaf ears. He also covers the media backlash, the eyewitnesses who come forward to challenge SeaWorld’s glossy image, and the groundbreaking OSHA vs. SeaWorld case. On May 30, 2012, the judge ruled on this case, stating that trainers performing with huge ocean predators need to be protected by physical barriers, or some other means providing the same level of safety. The strict standard could effectively prevent SeaWorld from ever allowing its trainers to get back into the water during shows with the whales.” (Source)
Thoughts on Death at Sea World:
With the upcoming release of the new documentary Blackfish, I decided to finally read Death at Sea World. Simply put, it is an inspiring, heartbreaking, thriller, that provides significant insight into the lives of Killer Whales in captivity. Kirby takes you through a gripping investigation that is hard to put down. The book in the end, is an eye opener to Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity.
The chapter entitled Capture, which is told from Tilikum’s perspective, is absolutely heartbreaking. It is hard not to view the capture of Tilikum as similar to that of a child being taken away from its mother at such a young age. Especially considering that male killer whales spend most of their time by their mother’s side from infancy through old age. While they may swim off for a few hours or days to mate with females from other pods, at the end of the day they always come back to their mother. As Kirby puts it, “in other words, male resident orcas are the planet’s ultimate mama’s boy.” Here is a little excerpt from the chapter “Suddenly you are snagged in another, smaller net. You cry out in shock and fear, calling for your mother. You feel the net being pulled through the water toward the boat. Your heart races and you surface to breathe, quickly and with difficulty. What is going on? Where is your mom? Then you hear her. You have never hear this wretched wail before: mournful, ragged, spiked with rage and terror. Now your other relative have joined the awful remonstration. You answer their panicked cries with your own chaotic vocalizations as you’re hauled from the water on a canvas sling.”
Interestingly enough, no killer whale had been reported to have killed a human in the wild, or even seriously attacked a human in the wild, and no killer whale had ever been known to be killed in a fight with another whale. All three of those things have happened in captivity
According to Kirby there are two vital questions:
1) Is captivity in an amusement park good for orcas: Is this the appropriate venue for killer whales to be held, and does it somehow benefit wild orcas and their ocean habitat, as industry claims?
2) Is orca captivity good for society: Is it safe for trainers and truly educational for a public that pays to watch the whales perform what critics say are animal tricks akin to circus acts?
Clearly my answer to these two questions is no, but what would your answer be?
After reading Death at Sea World, this what I can say with certainty: 1. I will continue my pledge to never visit Sea World or anything similar 2. I will be a voice for the voiceless by informing others of the brutal reality of captivity for Killer Whales and other cetaceans, 3. The only place I ever want to see Killer Whales is in their natural environment and thanks to David Kirby I hope to one day travel to Johnstone Strait and Telegraph Cove to do so.
That being said, I urge each of you to pick up Death at Sea World by David Kirby and sit down and read it. I guarantee you that it will completely change your outlook on Sea World and the Killer Whale captive entertainment industry. Secondly, if you haven’t already heard about the new documentary Blackfish, then view the trailer below and check for local screening times on the website http://blackfishmovie.com/
Are you considering a trip to Sea World? Before doing so, take a moment to watch the new full length trailer released by CNN films of Blackfish.
Blackfish is the Sundance decuting film about killer whales in captivity and their propensity of living up to their namesake.
The haunting footage revolves mostly around one whale, Tilikum, responsible for the very public and very horrifying death of a Sea World trainer in 2010.
Are these animals truly killers, or did we make them into killers when we stuck them inside a tank and made them perform for crowds? That seems to be the essential question at the heart of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s unsettling documentary.
Watch the trailer for Blackfish:
Blackfish opens in limited release July 19. Here’s the official synopsis:
Many of us have experienced the excitement and awe of watching 8,000 pound orcas, or “killer whales,” soar out of the water and fly through the air at sea parks, as if in perfect harmony with their trainers. Yet, in our contemporary lore this mighty black and white mammal is like a two-faced Janus—beloved as a majestic, friendly giant yet infamous for its capacity to kill viciously. Blackfish unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the story of notorious performing whale Tilikum, who—unlike any orca in the wild—has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. So what exactly went wrong?
Shocking, never before seen footage and riveting interviews with trainers and experts manifest the orca’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity over the last four decades and the growing disillusionment of workers who were misled and endangered by the highly profitable sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.
In many animal societies, if a member of a group is gravely wounded or born with disabling deformities, that animal becomes an unsustainable burden on the others, and is often left behind at the mercy of predators, hunger and disease.
Not so with killer whales. They are among the few species in the world to look after members of their family who cannot look after themselves. Their patience and compassion for each other surpasses, perhaps, even that of humans
The most recent example of this extraordinary commitment to one another was revealed recently in the UK’s Daily Mail, which ran a story and photo essay of a disabled young male orca off the coast of South Africa. The disabled killer whale that is missing two fins is able to survive in the wild with the help of its family, who hunt food its food. The young killer whale has no dorsal fin or right-side pectoral fin, leaving it unable to hunt for itself.
These disfigurements make it impossible for the whale to hunt alongside his pod. Luckily for him, they are only too willing to hunt for their disabled pod mate.
Underwater photographer Rainer Schimpf came face to face with the pod while the members hunted in waters off Port Elizabeth in South Africa. He said: “Incapable of fast hunting and ambushing prey it has to be dependent on the pod which, one assumes, looks after it very well. It shows these mammals are not really just ruthless killing machines but they also have complex, caring social-structures in which they and care for their own disabled members.”
Of course, the more you learn about the intelligence, compassion and complex social bonds these amazing animals have developed over millions of years of evolution, the idea of keeping them locked up in tanks for human entertainment and profit becomes even more ludicrous.
Killer whales are highly social; some pods are composed of matrilineal family groups which are the most stable of any animal species. Killer Whales are notable for these complex societies. Only elephants and higher primates, such as humans, live in comparably complex social structures. It is because of these complex social bonds and society that one should wonder why we attempt keep Killer Whales in captivity.
Captivity is about separation and exclusion. It is about the destruction of families and communities. For wild caught animals, many watch their parents and family killed in front of them at a young age so that they won’t be able to put up a fight to defend them from capture. For the animals bred in captivity at Marineland, those parents routinely watch as their offspring suffer and die in infancy.
There are no heart warming stories at Marineland, Niagara Falls, Canada. There are endless sad stories, but none may be more pressing and sad than that of Kiska. Marineland’s last remaining Orca, Kiska was wild caught from Iceland in the 1980’s. At Marineland, Kiska is the longest serving resident and she has seen dozens of Orcas come and go – and estimated 14 other Orcas die. Of those 14, 5 of them have been her own children. The oldest surviving just 6 years. (Source)
Since the removal of Ikaika back to SeaWorld she has spent her days alone. Ex-trainers have spoken publicly about their concern for her and Marineland itself have gone on public legal record establishing their concern for the health of their lone Orca held in solitary. (Source)
Kiska’s story is the story of captivity. She has survived, but at what cost? Her life has been painfully sad, she is alone and completely dependent upon humans – humans who are only interested in her as an “asset.”
There is no human need to hold other animals in captivity. There is no human need to gawk at or to turn other animals into mere commodities and spectacles. Marineland Animal Defense fights to remove Kiska and all of the other animals at Marineland and to ensure there are no more captives!
Truth – Dolphins look as though they are smiling because that is the way their faces are shaped. Captive dolphins are constantly on display with nowhere to hide and are forced to perform shows every single day. Dolphins are denied their freedom to travel, and in many cases are taken from their families and homes in the ocean. Would you be happy if you were a captive dolphin?
Myth – Captive dolphins are safe from predators and don’t have to look for food like would in the wild.
Truth – Inmates in prison are safe from being burgled and are fed each day. But do you think they are happy? The main difference between a jail cell and a aquarium tank is that on is filled with water.
Myth – Captive dolphin display have educational value.
Truth – The only thing captivity teaches is that it is okay to imprison animals and force them to perform for our entertainment. In captivity, a dolphin’s natural behavior are repressed. In the wild dolphins do not jump through hoops or drag people through the water with their fins. Captivity presents a completely false image of everything a dolphin is!
Myth – Children establish a connection with dolphins in captivity that would otherwise be impossible to achieve.
Truth – many children care about dinosaurs yet they have never see one. Through photos, videos, stories, tours to see wild dolphins and animations, children can develop love for dolphins without their having to suffer in captivity. Do you think your child would dolphins to suffer if they knew the truth?
Myth – Rescued dolphins have a good home in captivity.
Truth – Dolphins found injured or stranded need medical care and rehabilitation. However, they should not afterwards be forced into a life of servitude and display; they should be released back into the wild. If this is not possible they should be sent to a sea pen where they can live out their lives in privacy and a mostly natural environment.
“Dolphin shows are nothing but a display of human dominance over animals. They are as educational about dolphins as Mickey Mouse is about mice.’ Ric O’Barry
Dolphin exploitation continues to this day because the public remains unaware of dolphin suffering. Now that you are aware, please do not fund the suffering dolphins and other small whales by purchasing a ticket to a dolphin show or swim with dolphin program.