Farewell L120

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L86 Surprise! & L120. Photo by Sara Hysong-Shimazu

L86 Surprise! & L120. Photo by Sara Hysong-Shimazu

It is with a heavy heart and many tears that I report to you that the first calf born to the southern residents in two years – L120 – has likely died. While this has been suspected for a few days, I didn’t want to relay the information until official sources – such as the CWR or Orca Network – reported it. According to Kenneth Balcomb, the calf’s mother L86 Surprise was spotted Friday, Saturday and Monday with the little one no where to be seen. The calf was estimated to be about seven weeks old and would still be sticking close to his or her mother. The fact that L86 was alone leaves little room for hope.

Lack of salmon and harmful pollutants may be the cause of L120’s death. The low levels of chinook can lead to a reduced supply of milk while chemicals such as PCBs and dioxins get into the mother’s body and is then transferred to the calf through her milk. It is believed that cetaceans grieve due to photographic evidence of dolphins and whales pushing deceased calves around on their rostrums, therefore it is hard to imagine how painful it must be for L86 to lose another calf (her second offspring, L112 Sooke/Victoria died in 2012 of severe acoustic trauma).

This is the third death for this community in 2014 (L100 Indigo and L53 Lulu went missing earlier this year), bringing the population down to 78. It has been suspected since early summer that J32 Rhapsody (18 years old) may be pregnant. Let’s hope that she or another female produce a healthy calf that lives to receive a name. We will miss you, L120.

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San Francisco Passes A Resolution Recognizing The Rights Of Cetaceans

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Nakai. Photo by Lolilujah.

Nakai. Photo by Lolilujah.

San Francisco, a city known for being open minded and allowing freedom in many different forms to flourish has passed a ground breaking resolution which states that cetaceans have the right “to be free of captivity, and to remain unrestricted in their natural environment.”

The San Francisco Board of supervisors recognized the importance of the highly intelligent animals and their complex social structures as well as the high mortality rates seen in captivity and the overwhelming psychological stress they experience.

Earlier this year, a bill was proposed that, if enacted, would make it illegal to display captive orcas in California and would call for the retirement of SeaWorld San Diego’s ten killer whales. After being viewed by California legislature, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act was put under interim study. Contrary to what many SeaWorld supporters would like to believe, this does not mean that the bill was rejected or is dead. AB 2140 will be reviewed again once the idea of sea pens has been more thoroughly looked into.

Laura Bridgeman, Campaign and Communications Specialist of the International Marine Mammal Project has said “While the resolution is non-binding, it is significant because never before in California history have any cetacean rights been recognized. We do believe that it’s going to boost the chances that the orca bill will be adopted, especially if other cities follow suit. With each resolution that gets passed, it becomes more and more difficult for SeaWorld to claim that cetaceans belong in captivity.”

This past March, a New York Senate Committee approved a “Blackfish Bill”, making it illegal for any future marine parks in the state to keep orcas in their tanks.

The winds of change are blowing and boy don’t they feel good!

Orcas and Salmon – A Better Year but Not Good Enough

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L84 Nyssa CWR

L84 Nyssa catches a Chinook Salmon. Photo by the Center for Whale Research.

2013 was a dismal year for the Southern Resident Killer Whales. It saw no births and the deaths of two orcas: 80 year old J8 Spieden and 34 year old L79 Skana. Whale watchers were shocked and concerned over the lack of inland visits from this orca population, famous for the playfulness of its members and the frequency in which they can be seen in the Salish Sea. 2014 has been an improvement. While the deaths of 13 year old L100 Indigo and 37 year old L53 Lulu have dealt a heavy blow to the community, there has also been one birth so far this year: L120. The birth of L86 Surprise!’s new calf ended the two year period in which there were no births in the population. The whales were seen more frequently this year but there were some peculiar behaviors. The SRKWs seemingly love to get together and have ‘family reunions’ or as most people call it – a super pod. However, these orca pods are breaking apart more often, presumably due to the low numbers of the salmon population (also up from 2013). Monika Wieland, an avid whale watcher and marine naturalist, has reported only seeing a true super pod (when all whales from all three pods are together) three times this summer. While it is good news to see these improvements from 2013, conditions are still not good for these whales. The most important thing to remember when it comes to saving and preserving J, K and L pods is this: no fish, no blackfish. Information provided by Monika Wieland at orcawatcher.com. Please check her out!

Keto’s Genetic Background

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Image by Liam Kotteberg

Background Image by Liam Kotteberg

Keto, 19 years old, 75% Icelandic & 25% SRKW, related to 55% of SeaWorld’s orca population, 56% of its females and 30% of all captive orcas. Unrelated SW females: Corky, Shouka, Kayla, Orkid, Morgan, Malia and Kasatka

My Experience With ‘Light Up The NIght’

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Katina on the slide-out during Light Up The Night

Katina on the slide-out during Light Up The Night

When I visited SeaWorld Orlando on July 23rd with two other anticaps, there was no doubt in our minds that we were going to be seeing Light Up The Night when the sun went down. As we were there for research purposes, it was important to us that we see this highly controversial SeaWorld show. The height of the controversy was with the fireworks that they shoot off at the end of the show for the big finale. The show itself is beautiful and the music is catchy but it still raises concerns. One thing that was evident from even the preshow when the DJ is attempting to get everyone to show off their best dance moves through the decades is that the music is absolutely deafening. As stated above, I went with two other anticaps and we couldn’t hear each other, nor could I hear the little girl that accompanied us. The music continued at that level for the entire show. It was so loud in fact that when the fireworks went off we could barely hear them. We were sitting very close to the slide out, too. I’m not sure if they were always like this or if SeaWorld increased the volume of the music after people started making waves about the fireworks affecting their orcas. The reason I question this is because even the One Ocean music was not this loud. So why is Light Up The Night so obnoxious?
Katina and trainer Holly Byrd

Katina and trainer Holly Byrd

Although I stated that the music was louder than the fireworks, please do not think that I am condoning the fireworks. These fireworks, while pretty and exciting to watch, cause pollution and are harmful to other animals. While the music drowns them out for the orcas, what about the other animals at the park? The belugas? The dolphins? All of these animals have highly sensitive ears as well and it is important to recognize that these other cetaceans are affected by this too. There are reports from many people who live in the general vicinity of SeaWorld having issues with their pets and their children because of the incessant fireworks every night. The fireworks at SWSD pollute Mission Bay. So much for the conservational efforts and their wanting to “shelter this dream so the wonder never ends.” But of course as we have come to know, the show is the most important part.
 
What is your opinion of Light Up The Night?
Katina flipping during Light Up The Night

Katina flipping during Light Up The Night