Mark Simmons writes for Awesome Ocean. I dissected Mark's article as there are still a lot of differing opinions and unanswered questions. He also did a questions and answers session with Awesome Ocean but we couldn't ask questions as no one can write on their blog or posts, so I will add in any questions from that too, podcast questions will be in blue.
I will try to make all the questions BOLD
So just to recap
Mark Simmons post in Black
My comments and questions in red
Podcast questions generated in blue
When SeaWorld announced an expansion of its killer-whale habitats, no one was surprised when fringe activists like PETA -- and even people who position themselves as marine mammal "experts" who actually have zero first-hand experience with killer whales -- pounced on the news.
PETA's director of animal law, Jared Goodman said "A bigger prison is still a prison.”
We can see those you call ''experts'' throughout the blog post. I call them marine biologist and wild orca scientists.
If they have abilities working with wild orcas as against your captive orcas, how can you call their abilities?
As someone who's worked with whales and dolphins for nearly three decades, I can no longer sit on the sidelines while these groups hijack the conversation and continue to mislead the public.
Don't they have peer reviewed papers in their names and work with government agencies who do not question their abilities, and also lecture in universities?
Those of us who work with, study, rescue and care for animals know that nothing will ever satisfy these groups, short of opening the gates and turning loose any and all animals in human care.
This is your opinion, not a fact, see below
Also bear in mind Keiko's timeline says
April, 1999: Two former Sea World trainers are hired as lead consultants.( I guess that will be Mark Simmons and Robin Friday) Fieldwork begins on orcas following herring near Vestmannaeyjar. By fall of 2001 approximately 250 are photo-IDed, some are biopsied for DNA samples and acoustic calls are recorded. No field researcher has yet been contacted and none are contacted for advice on Keiko's reintroduction until 2002.
You state that Keiko's pod was found and he had been swimming with them so how come none were contacted until 2002? He died in 2003.
So let me be clear: blindly releasing zoological whales into the wild is a dangerous, irresponsible approach that would imperil not only those animals but the future of all wildlife.
I haven't really experienced any scientist who says they should be released into the wild. Naomi Rose has NEVER said she wanted the orcas released into the open ocean. She put forward a win win situation for both the orcas and the parks which stated
You said the same thing in you podcast interview so where is the problem?
Who said the orcas should be dumped in the open ocean?
We need only look to the tragic experiment of the release of Keiko, the whale whose story inspired the movie Free Willy. Spurred by the film, people donated millions of dollars to fund his release. Unfortunately, the project was led by animal-rights activists who were not only ill-prepared to manage such an undertaking, but were unrelentingly focused on a single outcome - releasing Keiko to the wild - despite overwhelming evidence that this whale could not survive there.
Jean Michel Cousteau isn't an animal rights activist and they only handed over care for the last year of his life. Wasn't releasing Keiko to the wild the goal of the whole project?
A six-member panel of marine mammal veterinarians and pathologists assembled by the USDA announces Keiko is healthy and exhibiting normal behavior patterns of a killer whale. Two veterinarians from Iceland subsequently examine Keiko and find: “This condition (skin lesions) is known to occur in wild and captive whales and is not considered a health challenge to Keiko.” Jim McBain, a panelist and director of veterinary medicine for Sea World in San Diego, says a companion whale should be a priority.
If the USDA assembled the team how can they all be animal rights activists?
In your own press statement you said '' Funding was eventually exhausted and Keiko's reintroduction programme resulted in being cut short prematurely. Keiko was never able to function in the wild but rather relied on handouts from Norwegian fishermen until he died''
So in this statement in 2010 you state his programme was cut short as the project ran out of money, yet now you state it was because the project was led by animal rights activists. Which one is it?
Robin Friday who you work with now and said you worked alongside, then said Milestones he achieved were - completion of the world first SUCCESSFUL open ocean behavioral conditioning of a captive killer whale. He classes it as successful and this is the man you worked alongside and whom you work with now.
Why then would you throw him under the bus?
In the podcast you state Robin is widely respected in the field and his contacts got you involved and he brought you along for the behavioural aspects yet he says the project was successful, so how can that be?
Robin Friday also said -
Keiko is back where he belongs, in the very waters from which he was plucked almost two decades ago.
Thus, new rules designed to diminish all unnecessary interaction: No eye contact unless Keiko is being asked to do something that furthers his development. No rubdowns or massages just out of affection. And soon, just dead fish piped into the water at mealtimes instead of hand-feedings.
"It's a transition for the staff as much as it is for Keiko," Friday says. "It's like preparing your child to go out on his own. You've got to cut the strings."
Who was he referring to who hadn't cut the strings as Naomi said it was the trainers?
Jeff Foster who supervised the team said even if Keiko spends the rest of his days in his bay pen -- and male orcas can live anywhere from 40 to 60 years -- the experiment could never be deemed a failure.
How can he make that statement, Robin Friday make the same statement but you see it differently?
Sadly, Keiko suffered a long, slow and physiologically punishing death at their hands.
The vet said differently, remember he had a satellite tag on him when he left to travel to Norway which recorded much data, see here
How did you come to the conclusion of a long slow death when everyone else involved didn't?
Many others also give a different account to your statement too. -
Stephen Claussen who was Keiko's long time trainer in Oregon said -
the foundation and Humane Society continued to push for a hands-off approach, figuring tough love might encourage Keiko to branch out, munch on free-swimming fish and make friends.
In the summer of 2002, he branched out all right. When a storm sent Keiko's tracking boat back to Vestmannaeyjar, the whale headed east and went missing for two months. His keepers proclaimed success, pronouncing that Free Willy finally was.
So Keiko went off on his own of his own accord
The first observations of Keiko in Norway document that he is in excellent physical condition.
Keiko has been on his own for close to 60 days without food from humans. His lead veterinarian, and a variety of other orca scientists, come to the conclusion that Keiko has successfully fed himself in the wild, a major milestone in his journey to the wild.
The Project staff work closely with the Norwegian government to put in place regulations to keep people from swimming with, feeding, or getting too close to Keiko.
You state in the podcast that foraging was never proven, but after 60 days of being alone he arrived in Norway in great condition, how can that be?
Meanwhile,in 2002 the Craig McCaw Foundation and Ocean Futures Society turn over the management of the project to the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the Humane Society of the U.S.
December 12, 2003 -- The Free Willy Keiko Foundation and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reported today that Keiko, the orca whale, died today in the Taknes fjord, Norway, in the company of staff members who have been caring for him there.
Keiko's veterinarian believes that acute pneumonia is the most likely cause of death, though he also cited that Keiko was the second oldest male orca whale ever to have been in captivity. This is something that has killed many captive orcas too.
This is a totally different account of the story you tell about Keiko.
Seaworld Their statement on the death of Keiko states that Seaworld lied yet again about his cause of death naming
Thad Lacinak, who spent 30 years at Sea World and worked as head trainer, as the person giving the incorrect information. Strange that the same person blamed Dawn Brancheau for her own death some years later, also speaking for Seaworld.
Why would Seaworld give a statement when it had nothing to do with them?
Ocean Future States - From 1999 to 2003, Jean-Michel Cousteau and colleagues at the Free Willy Keiko Foundation were part of a pioneering effort to rehabilitate Keiko and give him the opportunity to return to the wild after more than 20 years in captivity. Thanks to this effort and support from millions of contributors as well as dedicated philanthropists, scientists and animal husbandry experts, we were able to advance our knowledge about killer whales through Keiko and to give him humane care for the rest of his life. Keiko was returned to his native waters in Iceland and lived free although with continuing husbandry and medical support until his death in December of 2003.
Once again this does not show a long, slow and physiologically punishing death that you speak of, the plan was to give him his choices back, he could choose to come and go as he pleased yet would always have husbandry and medical support. Which ironically is what Naomi Rose suggested for the Seaworld orcas.
How did you come to that conclusion when the evidence shows differently?
After his release, Keiko made his way from Iceland to the fjords of Norway, where he sought out human companions and where children could be seen swimming with him and climbing on his back. He never joined other orcas, but lived under human care in Taknes Bay until his death of pneumonia on Dec. 12, 2003.
|Keiko, bear in mind he had been trained by the SW trainers in Iceland to follow the boat|
The vet team stated he was fitter than he had ever been before leaving Oregon. He had gained weight 1800lbs and was eating live steelheads and on his arrival in Norway was in excellent physical shape proving that for those 60 days he had fed himself.
You state in the podcast that he had a virus and a bad chest which recurred every winter, but when he was in Oregon the infection cleared, he gained over 1000lbs could dive and hold his breath which he couldn't do in Mexico and the vet said he was in great condition.
Had the virus gone or not as you contradict the vet and other team members?
The whale never demonstrated that he could navigate or that he could catch fish, and he never learned to prefer the company of whales.
He was pictured many times with wild orca, he could catch his own fish in Oregon and he arrived in Norway fit and well proving he had fed himself for 60 days, so how can you make that conclusion?
You also state that it was presumed that Keiko would recognise his mother, or pod, like meeting in a crowd, don't orca pods have their own dialect, so from the sounds that would have been easy. It is also said that Keiko's pod was never found a factor to be considered at the next release so how would that be an issue this time?
Training team spokeman Hallur Hanson said in a press conference
The "Free Willy" star is feeding himself on live cod released into his pen in the Westmann Islands, off southern Iceland
"He's in excellent shape and there is no reason why he should not return to the wild this year," Hallson said. "It's completely up to him."
On more than a dozen occasions Keiko encountered wild whales, and interacted with them directly on nearly half a dozen occasions
While enjoying an open-ocean swim with his trainers, Keiko met some new pals on Wednesday. The international film sensation, star of two "Free Willy" movies, left his trainers for ten minutes to swim with a pod of orcas, his longest encounter with wild animals since his capture some 20 years ago.
He's catching live fish, has gained 2,000 pounds and is in perfect health. His caretakers take Keiko on walks in the open ocean for up to 30 hours. They encourage Keiko to explore on his own. And he does, for hours at a time, 20 miles away. Keiko's caretakers say he's doing extremely well.
Full report can be seen here
This again contradicts the statement made above that he could not navigate, catch fish or learned to prefer the company of whales.
“He never spent more than 20 seconds at any given time with a pod of wild whales before he would depart in one random direction or another,” he said.
|Keiko with wild orcas|
This is also contradicted in the statement above and reasons are given below.
Naomi Rose also said - '' Robin Friday, Mark Simmons, and others would grow nervous whenever Keiko demonstrated too much independence on his "walks." If he wandered too far from the tracking boat, they would call him back with underwater tones. Despite the tracking tag on his fin, they seemed afraid to "lose" him, even though in many ways, that was the whole idea.
Naomi now suspected that Keiko’s trainers did not want him going off on his own. Howie had been prescient in the warning: this was a subtle form of sabotoge. Robert and Mark were training him in the way the navy did its dolphins-to follow a boat and remain focused on it, so they did not go AWOL.”
I feel as if this had a huge impact on the release of Keiko.''
To back up that statement, here is a video clip of time spent with Keiko. If he was supposedly being rehabilitated as a wild whale, why were people still doing this with him? This is how Seaworld would have treated their orca back at that time, not how someone would have treated a wild whale.
''Possibly one of the bigger reasons as stated in the above quotes: Keiko’s Seaworld based staff had little to no experience working with wild whales, and most certainly did not actually want Keiko to go free, as during this whole rehab and release project, Seaworld was desperately trying to obtain Keiko both for their breeding program, and so that the public wouldn’t get the idea of trying to free their whales/money makers. Once again, Seaworld has shown their secretive, greedy, do-whatever-it-takes-to-get-their-way side''
See her interview here
That raises a pretty valid point to be fair, what experience do you have working with wild whales?
Page 208 of Killing Keiko says -'' Keiko adapted to the enormous bay quicker than we did. We positioned ourselves at the corners and it would still take 15 minutes to locate him. Truthfully our inability to supervise Keiko in the bay was the root of much discomfort on our part and therefore we continued to separate him into the small area of the bay pen each night.
As Naomi Rose said above you were doing that it is a little unfair to slate them as activists as surely your behaviour defeated the whole object of the project don't you think?
Page 208 of your book says he adapted quicker than you did and it would take you a good 15 minutes to find him, yet in the podcast you say it is almost overwhelming for Keiko and he shouldn't have been in that position. It can't be both so did he adapt to the bay or not?
One month after hiring Seaworld trainers - May, 1999: New project leader says the operation to return Keiko to the ocean is not working. New rules are designed to diminish all unnecessary interaction
May 6, 2000: Trainers lead Keiko from his enclosure in Klettsvik Bay on his first “ocean walks.” Handlers had planned to wait a while longer before taking Keiko on his first walk, but their schedule was pushed forward by construction work near Keiko's pen. Construction crews blast dynamite underwater that could severely damage Keiko's hearing. An aircraft flies over the waters prior to the outing to see if other whales were in the vicinity, because at this point in Keiko's training such contact is not considered desirable by his handlers. No whales are in sight and the green light is given.
June 7, 2000: Jeff Foster, director of research and operations for Ocean Futures, says sometimes the whale will swim as far as a half-mile away from the boat, disappearing from the keepers' view for six or seven minutes. “Your heart stops when that happens,” he said. “We're walking this fine line. We want to encourage him to go out further, but we don't want to encourage him to go too far.”
August 15, 2000: Foster says some days Keiko eats 100 percent of his diet in live fish, which indicates he “might be capable of feeding himself at sea.”
You said there is no proof that he is catching his own food, yet Jeff Foster says some days he ate 100% of his diet in live fish. Which statement is correct?
August, 2001: Keiko strays as far as 35 miles from the caretakers who accompany him by boat at sea. He initiates contact with wild killer whales on numerous occasions and spends hours at a time swimming with them. Staff track the whale by helicopter using a radio tag. His longest period on his own is six days with a couple of stretches of two to three days of complete separation from the walk boat. Ocean Futures announces that it is unlikely they will be able to maintain a ship, a helicopter and the number of researchers they were able to dedicate to Keiko's reintroduction to date, and must evaluate how effective they can be with fewer assets and must locate additional support.
This is a direct contradition to your statement as they state he spent HOURS swimming with wild whales, did he?
Richard O'Barry, who has devoted 30 years to freeing cetaceans, argues that the “Free Willy” project was doomed from the start because: “They're still training him. He's in captivity even when he's out at sea. He's psychologically dependent on his trainers.”
This was also said by others so is that what was happening?
Seaworld tried all ways to sabotage the project even reporting them to NMFS in an attempt to keep him in the US. Their involvement is below. Why would they do that?
Seaworld December, 1995: Keiko’s new tank is built in just five months. Oscillating water jets and rubbing rocks are installed. Brad Andrews and other spokespeople for the park industry state publicly that Keiko should never be released because he carries a contagious virus that could infect wild populations. Dr. Greg Bossart, veterinarian for the Miami Seaquarium, (et al.) publish “Cutaneous papillomaviral-like papillomatosis in a killer whale (Keiko)” in the journal of the Society for Marine Mammalogy. The paper mentions the word “virus” in the title and throughout the paper, and it states that this virus is the “first case” found in a killer whale, strongly suggesting that Keiko was infected with a virus foreign to wild populations, without quite ever stating clearly that Keiko actually carried any virus.
March 31, 1998: “I don't think it's fair and humane to the animal to try this operation just to make a few people happy,” says Brad Andrews of Sea World.
Again Brad Andrews tries to assert his influence despite the Icelandic vet saying to the contrary.
June, 1998: Iceland's chief veterinary officer examines Keiko in Newport and says tests showed there were no grounds for opposing his return home. According to CNN, the Prime Minister of Iceland, David Oddsson, sanctioned the U.S. government for holding a resident of another country against his will. He demanded that the U.S. Gov't return Keiko to Icelandic waters by Sept. 19 or they will take civil action against the U.S. In September, Keiko's pod will be in the Icelandic region. David Oddsson said that the U.S. abducted Keiko from within a 12 mile radius of Iceland's shore, and that he was abducted as a citizen of Iceland.
Brad Andrews of Sea World says it's a mistake to put Keiko back in open waters, even in a pen. “He's going to be in an ocean pen where the weather conditions are ferocious,” he said. “It's cold, it's miserable, it's dark. There's no contact with other whales. It doesn't make a lot of sense,” he says.
June 15, 1998: “We've been misleading these schoolchildren all these years, maybe now's the time to start telling them the truth -- that they should find a companion for him and keep him where he's at,” said Brad Andrews. The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums complains to NMFS that the Foundation is using a loophole on exports to send Keiko to Iceland
September 8, 1998: When the time comes to begin the transport, Keiko goes into the sling as trained without needing to be prompted. Nearly 5,000 people visit the aquarium to see Keiko for the last time before his momentous move. 2,537,000 have seen him since his arrival in January, 1996. Fred Jacobs, vide-president of Busch Entertainment Corp., which operates Sea World, says: “This is an animal that has spent his entire life in the company of human beings. I would think he's an extremely bad candidate for return to the wild.” Sea World's Brad Andrews said Keiko's move is only a feel-good exercise for his handlers and could be harmful to the whale. “I would not be about to risk our animals in that type of situation,” Andrews said, calling the move “just another step in the fantasy.” Alliance director Marilee Menard says “Keiko is a relatively old animal and old animals don’t react well to change or stress.” Patricia Forkan of The HSUS, says “Our hope is that Keiko will make it and that the other orcas will follow.”
What did any of this have to do with Seaworld, you didn't mention once that they were trying to interfere in the whole release programme, but Naomi Rose did??
If the whole exercise was supposed to be to teach Keiko to be a wild whale then why were the trainers still doing this with him? This isn't husbandry and goes against what Robin Friday had said about interactions. This also confirms what Naomi Rose said you were doing. Why would you do this with a whale you wanted to be wild??
Why would people do this with a
This was an insurmountable problem for a whale who was kidnapped as a child and whose chief company was humans. Greg Bossart, chief veterinarian at the Georgia Aquarium, said that when he first met Keiko in Mexico City, “I remember him putting his head in my lap and wanting his tongue scratched. That was the first red flag.”
This whale, deeply attached to humans, is probably not a good candidate for a life in the wild, Bossart thought at the time.
What did it have to do with any of the Aquariums?
A differing view is offered by David Phillips, director of the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation, who claimed Simmons was fired from the Keiko project because of conflict with the head veterinarian. Phillips said Keiko came a “humongous” distance from his concrete pen in Mexico City to the waters of the North Atlantic, which counts as a “fantastic success.”
“Did he make it into his home pod and swim off into the sunset? Of course, he was not able to do that,” Phillips said. But Keiko was able to “live out his life in Norway.”
Phillips also directs the Earth Island Institute, which considers SeaWorld and other aquariums (including the Georgia Aquarium) part of the “marine mammal exploitation business.”
Were you fired as the director said?
Such groups have exerted pressure on aquariums to release cetaceans. That pressure increased last year with the production of “Blackfish,” a film that examined the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau while handling killer whale Tillikum.
People were protesting for their release long before Blackfish was even thought about.
The Georgia Aquarium and its collection of beluga whales are also subject to that pressure. “Blackfish” fans and others criticized the aquarium’s application last year to import an additional 18 belugas into the country. That application was turned down by the National Marine Fisheries Service; the aquarium filed a legal complaint seeking a reversal.
Rightly so, wild caught cetaceans are not allowed to be brought into the country so why should Seaworld and Shedd sneak them in the back door by saying they are breeding loans from Georgia Aquarium? The majority of those Belugas were not even going near Georgia Aquarium and were in fact flying straight into Seaworld. See what NOAA has to say here
Why would you think this should be allowed?
Simmons and Bossart both have managed the release of animals into the wild, and it is a complex process they said. Orcas, in particular, are social animals, and for survival must join a group.
How would you know that when the yard stick is Keiko? Had his pod been found as Springers was that may have been a different story but during Springers rehab Seaworld were adamant that she was 'not a robust orca' and should be in captivity, how wrong were they??
The introduction should be a positive experience for both the newcomer and the wild whales he might join, but because of misguided efforts by those in charge of Keiko’s release, the whale’s first contact with other orcas was traumatic, Simmons writes in his book.
Keiko was introduced to a pod ruled by an aggressive, larger male. The wild whales also had been harassed by Free Willy-Keiko Foundation researchers using cross bow-style biopsy devices to harvest DNA material, the book says.
“That was a setback almost more than his rehabilitation could possibly handle,” Simmons said. “Imagine the very first time you step in an airplane you’re in a crash.”
Where did he go when the helicopter followed him for the days away that he had. During the 6 days they said he was with wild whales. Are they lying?
Your book says
"The public has been misled about Keiko, and I'm not ok with that," said veteran animal behaviorist Mark Simmons, author of Killing Keiko, a new book available August 14. Simmons led the Animal Behavior Team charged with Keiko's release and spent years working in Iceland to prepare Keiko for his return to the wild. Ultimately, the team's success would prove to be undone by management's agenda to disregard behavioral science and elevate an urgent need for a timely and Hollywood ending.
You say in the podcast at 33:50 that he could have lived in the ocean, so the ocean isn't a problem for release then, as Seaworld supporters have the belief that the ocean would kill them?
You said its not about where he was, its the level of care he needed, so Naomi Rose's win win situation would work then if Seaworld orcas were to be put in a netted bay? That is what you are saying isn't it?
You also say that he should be alive today, but earlier on and in your book you state that he had always had a recurring chest infection and needed antibiotics, which I presume he still got. He was dying in Mexico and you state he very nearly died a few times, so isn't being out of the tank for 5 years a great achievement for an orca that was already sick?
When you make the reference to Tilikum and their ages, as you have stated that it is not the ocean that had killed Keiko, wouldn't it be fair to say that Tilikum could also be released to the ocean in a netted bay and still receive husbandry too, so he can be as near to natural as possible? Couldn't Keiko's bay be used for Tilikum and the other Icelandic orcas?
Simmons said “it’s no secret” that he’s in favor of well-run zoos and aquariums, but he said the most important goal he hopes to achieve with the book is to encourage animal rights activists and those who work with captive animals to stop fighting and begin cooperating for the welfare of all animals — in the wild, and in human care.
We are co operating for the welfare of those animals and if you were too you would drop the Blackfish diversion and look at what the scientists are trying to say as I have not seen one yet that says they should all be back in the open ocean. AB2140 didn't ask that either, it asked for the breeding programme to be stopped and for the orcas to be retired to sea pens.
Today, more than a decade after Keiko's death, animal rights groups like PETA continue to push aquariums to #emptythetanks.
What are the 9 points of release criteria from which you said Keiko only met 2 possibly 3?
With regards to the citations in your book, I always believe it is a good idea to include things like that as it backs up a story, hence all the citations in this, as they are so many contradicting stories and people will have been involved at an emotionally different level which can sometimes cloud the memories.
True #empty the tanks, it says nothing of throw them back into the ocean as you see from the win win solution above. Everyone who knows those orcas too know that the hybrids Seaworld created have absolutely no conservation value what so ever as there is no equivalent anywhere in the world except in Seaworld's tanks. None of the other orca holding facilities have cross bred populations, Kamogawa's are Icelandic, Marineland Antibes, Icelandic, in the wild there is no such thing as a transient x northern resident, or an Icelandic x southern resident mix. So we all know those orcas could never go back too.
They've been emboldened by #blackfish, which is nonsense masquerading as documentary and whose Hollywood director has absolutely no experience or expertise about marine mammals, period.
Frankly, it's insulting to those of us who do.
To be honest the Blackfish thing used by people like yourself drives me insane. People protested long before Blackfish which was produced to investigate Dawn's death and what would make Tilikum do that. Why on earth would you believe that people protest because of Blackfish? It opened a lot of new people's eyes but it is not the reason long term protestors have protested.
How I look at it is if PETA didn't exist, Blackfish and the Cove had never been made, these animals would all still have died - 45 killer whales, 244 dolphins, 25 false killer whales, 42 pilot whales, 23 beluga whales, 17 pygmy sperm whales. There would still have been 100 orca/trainer incidents recorded on the Seaworld animal profiles. Mothers would still have been separated from their offspring, as in Kohana in Spain, Takara in USA, and Kalina who had 4 calves none of whom were with her when she died. There are many many reasons people protest and its not to do with Blackfish and didn't start in 2010.
As you can see here people protested in the 70's .
Which part of Blackfish is nonsense? as you do not say, it is not right to just make a blank statement with no reason?
Is it that Tilikum was kept locked up at night?
Is it that Orkid attacked Tammaree?
Is it that Takara was separated from her calf?
Is it John Hargroves face? His statement to that injury is here, I believe Kyle Kittleson started the rumour ?
What many people don't understand is that zoos and aquariums play a critical role in the health and well-being of animals in the wild.
What critical role is that as normally it is conservation, but as stated previously Seaworld orcas have no conservation value so what role do they play?
They employ some of the best and brightest veterinarians, researchers and behaviorists who work closely with animals each and every day.
That may well be so but it still doesn't alter the fact that no matter how much they love those whales, they are not their whales. They get paid to do a job and no human can ever give the ocean top predator what it needs in a tank environment or do you think they can?
Their work helps us understand species' physiological and cognitive needs so that when the time comes to help these animals in the wild, we're ready.
What has been learnt in a tank that helps those in the wild?
The next time there's a marine mammal stranding, pay attention to who's leading the rescue; it will be a zoological facility.
The next time there's an oil spill, find out who's guiding wildlife management; it will be a zoological facility.
In the rescues Seaworld have been involved in with other agencies, not all are zoological facilities. They were not the first there with JJ, in fact they refused to help JJ until the press got involved.
In the recent humpback entanglement that Seaworld said they released, there were numerous agencies involved and only Seaworld was a zoological facility. The Alaska whale foundation, Blue Ocean Whale Watch, Clean Ocean Project, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Marine Life Studies Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Small Boat Operations Ocean Conservation Research Point Blue Conservation Science and the US Coastguard also helped with that.
All these centres go out on rescues in similar areas and NONE are zoo's.
Marine Mammal Centre California
Marine Mammal Conservancy Key Largo
North Coast Marine Mammal Centre
Pacific Marine Mammal Centre
Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Marine Mammal Care Centre Fort McArthur
Seacoast Science Centre
The day is not far off when the same people who criticize zoological care will be pleading for organizations like SeaWorld to come to the aid of wild populations facing extinction.
Should that situation arise they shouldn't have to plead with Seaworld for anything and at the moment those wild populations are far from extinction and those working to rescue wild whales don't have Seaworld at the top o their rescuers list.
It's only because of these organizations' missions that many animals in the wild have a chance of survival.
That is not true at all, whilst people like your company promote taking animals from the drive fisheries and those who buy from Taiji and Aquariums trying to be like Seaworld, make money others will look to do the same as in the recent Russian captures. Many countries do not have any dolphinariums yet they know about dolphins and whales and want to help and preserve them so if you listened to the message you have put out then that could not be the case. Evidence speaks for itself there.
Mark Simmons, animal behaviorist and author of Killing Keiko, is a former SeaWorld Senior Trainer and was the director of the Animal Behavior Team for the Free Willy/Keiko Release Project.
Today Mark serves as the Executive Vice President of Marine Mammal Consultancy, Ocean Embassy. Simmons has spent nearly three decades working in close contact with Killer Whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals and is a frequently sought speaker and expert in the rescue and rehabilitation of stranded and injured animals.
And as you can see from this statement by Mark Simmons he also conducted a successful dolphin transfer to Dubai. 26 dolphins were taken from the wild and this action restarted the Solomon Islands drive hunt. He openly states he works with the Solomon Islands and is looking towards a managed drive fishery. Why were those 26 dolphins not rehabilitated instead of being sent to confinement in Dubai?
There are a lot of different versions of what happened with Keiko and only one can be correct. Everyone except one is of the same opinion that Keiko's return to the ocean was not a failure, including Mark's partner Robin Friday. He lived for a whole 5 years out there, was pictured and recorded surfing, diving, exploring, foraging and generally being the ocean didn't kill him as many said it would, in fact the sea water in Oregon seemed to clear his skin condition and he grew and gained weight. He learnt to catch his own food again and it seems that all the comments, including that of Robin Friday state that it was the team that couldn't let go. As Seaworld trainers they were experienced in captive whales but as Naomi Rose stated they were not experienced with wild whales and hopefully that mistake will not be made again.
There is video evidence of the state of him in that tank and him interacting with wild whales in Iceland here
Lastly as a measure of success we need to remember why people were trying to release Keiko. His trainer
Claudia Galindo gives an interview of what life was like for him in the tank at Mexico - see a section of that below. Claudia worked with Keiko from 1990.
“I saw animals who didn’t want to work being withheld food,” Galindo says. “Lots of mornings upon arrival, we would find Keiko pushing his rostrum against the wall and crying. He even got a mark from how hard he was pressing against the wall and door.”
Keiko, whose skin broke out in a horrible bumpy rash from a viral infection, often suffered from an upset stomach, Galindo says, and would constantly require medication.
Despite his dodgy health and tiny, tap-water pool, Keiko was almost universally regarded as affectionate, at least toward most people. “He was very gentle and kind; he loved kids so much that we could sit one of the trainer’s kids on his belly and he would let that kid ride on him,” Galindo recalls. “He was so patient.”
On two occasions, however, she did witness the docile whale act aggressively. Once, he snapped at the park’s veterinarian. The second time, he took a swipe at the park’s owner, Galindo says. No one was hurt in either incident.
Keiko was also the only killer whale at Reino Aventura, so a number of bottlenose dolphins were passed through his tank in an effort to keep him company. And though in the dolphin family, orcas would never associate with bottlenoses in the wild. Given the isolation of captivity, however, they can form deep and lasting bonds with these smaller cetaceans.
There was a female dolphin named Lulu, for example, who was much more of a troublemaker than the gentle giant Keiko. “When people got in the pool, she would sometimes herd them into the middle and wouldn’t let them out,” Galindo says. “She’d roughhouse them until they were super frightened.”
Lulu’s male companion, a dolphin named Silver, was also very close with Keiko, Galindo says. “But he was sick, and he died.” When Silver fell ill, she recalls, the orca’s behavior toward his ailing friend was powerful evidence to suggest that these animals are extraordinarily social and compassionate.
“They were really good friends,” she says. “Keiko carried him around even before he died, to help keep him afloat,” Galinda told me by phone last week. After Silver died, “Keiko still carried him on his back and would not get into his holding cell to let the trainers retrieve the body. It was so sad. Keiko wept for his friend. His vocalizations were heartwrenching.”
Mistakes were made with Keiko that is obvious, but as in all things those mistakes will have been learnt from, qan orca returning to the wild surely cant be treated as a show animal, when he wanted to wander he was brought back, yet he still had a tracker on him so he could be found, that isn't breaking his dependance on humans either. Surely to become a wild whale he needed to behave like one, so when the exercise is done again these things need to be learnt from.
In light of the above, any release from that torture in Mexico had to be a success didn't it?
Lastly, a question for both Erin and Mark, Erin you said on finishing the book your first thought was never again. Why was that do people not learn from experience?
For Mark, you said at the end of the podcast that Seaworld orcas were not candidates for release, well we know that as most are hybrid, should never have been bred and would not be allowed into the open ocean and some need husbandry.
But now you have seen that people actually don't want to dump them into the open ocean, and you can see that Naomi Rose has never said she did want to do that, nor did AB2140. In light of you saying the ocean didn't kill Keiko, (in fact the seawater did his skin and health a world of good) would you still say that releasing them into a bay like Keiko had so they can live as near to natural as possible, making choices of their own, eating live fish with no need for hydration and having the space to put matralines spread over the parks back together, would be such a bad idea?
Would something along these lines not be ideal for them to live out their lives now you have established that the ocean isn't a problem after all?