Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Killer whale attacks some poor corporate lackey

I am sorry, folks, but I have to post this as the issue is close to my heart.

Adolescent hormones, eh? Could it be that they orca attacked because HE'S A FREAKING WILD ANIMAL???!!! Perhaps he attacked because it is not natural for him to be impounded in a tank that for an animal his size would compare to that of a large bathtub for you and I. Or, perhaps the frustrations involved in the training sessions created undue stress in the animal -- FYI, these grand animals do not land in the amusement parks with a clever ensemble of stage tricks under their flipper.

I have been to an assortment of animal parks, ranging from large, well branded monoliths to your run-of-the-mill, backyard menageries. Yet I have never seen a facility I believe to be even slightly comparable to the wild. Aesthetically pleasing to the human eye, perhaps, but not one met the specific needs of the animals they house. It is appalling.

The conditions most large mammals dwell in are even more horrifying to me because, they, by design, require lots of space / territory. It pains me to witness lions and other large cats compulsively pacing back and forth, back and forth, mindlessly repeating their well trodden path day in and day out. To witness primates forcing themselves to vomit and reingesting the mess (despite what park directors tell you, this is NOT a normal behavior). To watch orcas float lifelessly in tiny, shallow pools... It makes me wonder what anyone gets from seeing a wild animal in these settings.

Furthermore, animal parks pander their pathetic displays to animal lovers under the guise of wildlife rehabilitation and captive release. The sad reality is that most animals used for displays and entertainment cannot be released. In some cases, they have been defanged, declawed, and/or have faced some modification that would make release impossible. Offspring are, as you can imagine, cherished by facilities, large and small, for they are the $ makers, the cute babies that draw the public in. In my investigations, I have never found the capture-and-release or "conservation" programs to be true to their purpose. But rather, a clever PR tactic to divert animal rights activists and appease the concerns of their patrons.

My point of this rant is this: If you must visit these facilities, consider doing some research of your own and find out if the park's truly following through on their "rehabilitation" or "conservation" efforts. If they say "yes," don't leave it at that, ask them what they are doing specifically. Do some reading about the habitats and behaviors of the species you are about to view. Does the the facility provide similar settings / environment? Does the facility provide behavioral enrichment for the animal(s) they house? What are the conditions of their enclosure(s)? What stereotypic behaviors (pacing, neck craning, regurgitation, self-mutilation, cage licking, etc.) are you witnessing?

Many well meaning individuals visit wildlife parks with good intentions: chiefly, to educate themselves and/or their children. Unfortunately, many wild animals pay the price for our curiosity. Consider, rather, the many documentaries, IMAX films, simulations, television programs, books, and lectures available that provide more valuable information than does viewing a species devoid of its natural setting and behaviors.

Some valuable resources for more information are as follows: Zoocheck Canada Animal Protection Insititute Performing Animal Welfare Society

I don't deny the awe one feels when witnessing a tiger for the first time. The sheer power of their physical stature is overwhelming. However, is it my right, just because I am human, to take them out of their natural environment and put them on display? This arrogant belief of human superiority is depleting the world of thousands of species and polluting the environment at an alarming rate.

Furthermore, if we are interested in conservation, why not ensure that the wild spaces and habitats of large mammals be protected at all costs (thus protecting other small species with whom they share that land mass)? When nearly 10,000 tigers are owned privately in North America, while in the wild, the numbers of tigers in the wild are now estimated to be only 5,000 - 7,000, one must question our sincere conservation  objectives.

jane_crow, questioning the value of wild animals in captivity


Blogger Terry said...

I watched the news last night also and the first thing I thought was, they're called "killer" whales for a reason. I agree with pretty much all that you said Jane. My personal fav's are Humpback whales (I've adopted Star, a pcific coast whale, through an adoption/conservation program). I'll find the link here someplace.

Odd that the whale is part of the same pod that had another whale that killed a trainer in Victoria (pardon the tortured grammer).

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the trainer that was killed years back, was actually this whale's mother!

12:10 PM  
Blogger aleah said...

One pissed off pod-family!

12:34 PM  
Blogger Terry said...

If I was stuck in a little pond after roaming the whole ocean I'd be a little pissed too (one of the reasons a life of crime doesn't appeal to me).

2:06 PM  
Blogger June said...

This breaks my heart! Stupid "trainers".

2:15 PM  
Blogger aleah said...

I have heard that most Europeans are more enlightened about animal issues, especially circuses and traveling shows. Do you find this to be true in Germany? I wouldn't call myself an animal rights activist, but I am definitely opposed to animals being used for entertainment purposes and the commercialized/industrialized use of animals for food, clothing, etc... But it goes back to my belief in reverence for all life, including the body of the earth.

Thanks for visiting!

2:20 PM  
Blogger June said...

In Europe, every country is totally different, so it´s hard to tell generally. As for Germany, people adore animals here and are oversensitive to any kind of abuse generally (also connected with traumas from WWII and unconscious guilt still present). In the town where I live, shop owners daily put bowls full of fresh water in front of their shops for dogs passing by during hot summers and lots of people like to give donations to animal shelters or take their future pets from there.
As for the circuses and travelling shows, I see some once in a while, but only very seldom.
I hope it will only get better everywhere.

7:37 AM  

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