Empty the Tanks – SeaWorld Orlando recap

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Approximately 50-55 protesters stood outside SeaWorld Orlando yesterday for the worldwide Empty the Tanks event.  Many seasoned protesters greeted us newbies with open arms as we stood in solidarity against marine mammal captivity.  Both entrances to the park and along the road in between, visitors were greeted with signs and an occasional chant.

We received media attention from WFTV and the Orlando Sentinel.

Many visitors took photos as they went into the park, serving as a lasting reminder to them against captivity.  Perhaps as they return home from their family vacation and look through their memories, they will be reminded of the protest and re-think their day at SeaWorld.

We got honks and thumbs up from several people driving by, but we also heard (and saw) some opposition as well.  The road was patrolled by law enforcement the entire time, but the event remained peaceful.  

In general it was a great day to Empty the Tanks!

Check out the album for more photos

 

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The Fate of Kshamenk

Photo by Marcelo campos

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Orca-en-la-Argentina_2.jpg

Advocates were thrilled when Gov. Roberto Bubas of Argentina submitted a plan for the release of Kshamenk, the lone orca at Mundo Marino.  The plan was good news for those who fight the constant battle of ending captivity.

The problem came later when a group of experts concluded that the plan had significant holes and was not feasible.  The sad news caused a mixture of anger and confusion, which lead to misinformation being passed around as fact.

Many activists were outraged and claimed that many of the experts who assessed the plan worked at Mundo Marino.  This got further complicated in translation.  When “Mundo Marino” is passed through Google translator you get SeaWorld.  Only one who submitted comments, Dr. Ricardo Bastida, has worked at Mundo Marino.  He did not hide the fact that he worked at the rehab center there until he quit in 1998.  SeaWorld was not involved in the decision at all, although it is known that their newest calf was sired by Kshamenk through Artificial Insemination (AI).

None of these experts have any hidden agendas, especially when it comes to keeping in orca in captivity.  In fact, they have tirelessly used their own resources to find a sea pen that would be appropriate for Kshamenk with no avail.

Mr. Bubas undoubtedly had good intentions when he submitted the plan and it is important to recognized his stand against captivity.  However, in the end, when presented with facts it is understandable, although disappointing, why the plan is not feasible.  Here is a list of problems in the plan:

1.  Bubas’ plan had significant holes including no health assessment of Kshamenk to determine if there were any diseases present that could cause harm to the wild orca population in the area.
2.  The plan did not include any financial resources to fund the release or the after-effects.
3.  Kshamenk’s family and home range are unknown and the release of an animal belonging to a different genetic stock goes against the current policy in conservation.
4.  Ownership by Mundo Marino was blocked in Argentina in a legal file (2001-2006) to prevent export to the US.
5.  Kshamenk was believed to be aggressive but the mental and health assessment showed that he responded to the trainers and has tight social bonds with them
A “Reintroduction” plan is impossible due to the fact that his family and home range are unknown while a “Release” plan seem to be impossible, due to the legal and conservation regulations, the national government considered Kshamenk non releasable, possible health issues, lack of financial resources and his overall well-being would be compromised due to his bond with Floppy and human companionship.
The best option for Kshamenk would be a sea pen near the stranding location but unfortunately there aren’t good locations protected from storms in that coast.

For those who want to help with a release plan, further efforts could be more efficiently used to help the Free Morgan Foundation.

Shamu Stadium is “booming” and the Whales Feel It All

Fourth of July is over and so are the fireworks, except in SeaWorld parks.  SeaWorld’s Summer nights event runs through mid-August.

SeaWorld Orlando has incorporated the fireworks into their Shamu Rocks show, firing them off right behind Shamu Stadium while music is blaring and the whales are performing.  This looks to me like an accident waiting to happen.

(Skip to minute 19 for the fireworks display)

So, how do these fireworks effect the whales and dolphins at SeaWorld?Although no official studies have been done, probably because SeaWorld already knows the results wouldn’t be favorable, it is painfully obvious that fireworks have a negative effect.

In a recent study of military sonar’s effects on whales, Damian Carrington reports that when a simulated military sonar signal was sounded at 200bB and between 3km and 10km away, Cuvier’s beaked whales initially stopped feeding and swimming.  Then they swam rapidly away from the noise and some performed unusually deep and long dives.  They stopped feeding for 6-7 hours.

In a second study, it was estimated that after being spooked by the sonar, a blue whale missed out on about a ton of krill, or a day’s food.

Source:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jul/03/whales-flee-military-sonar-strandings

According to the American Academy of Audiology, fireworks are at 140 dB.  They also report that concerts of any musical genre is 110dB.

Noise chart

The chart explains that for humans 140 dB is painful and dangerous.  Music at 110 dB is considered dangerous if endured over 30 minutes.  Yet, SeaWorld has the whales performing in the midst of both.

To make the comparison of the decibels of sonar at the distance tested to the decibel level of fireworks,  an economics major and math genius friend of mine followed the formula.

200 dB at 3km or 9,842 ft (military sonar done in tests) would be equal to

140 dB of fireworks at 6889 ft, or over a mile.

Note that even at this distance, the whales mentioned above went without eating in the wild, and it is noted that many strand.  Although SeaWorld whales don’t go without eating (although if you watch the show, one swims around with her mouth open obviously hungry until she performs for reward),the loud noise (and vibrations) of the fireworks and music blaring would most likely have a negative effect.  In the wild, whale reaction was to flee.  At SeaWorld, there is nowhere for them to go.

Another thing to consider is that the debris from the fireworks has to land somewhere.  It likely falls into the tanks, potentially to be eaten and cause injury or illness to the whales.

The whales (and dolphins at the park as well) endure these fireworks and rock concert-type noises on a nightly basis during Summer Nights, which runs every night between June 22 and August 11 in Orlando, almost 3 months of nightly torture.  SeaWorld parks in San Diego and San Antonio have similar shows and events.

What must that feel like?  It can’t be pleasant or comfortable.  It seems to me that it’s only a matter of time before some type of accident happens.  I foresee the possibility of a whale being confused and leaping out of the tank, or miscalculating a slide-out and taking out a trainer.

Once again, SeaWorld “education” seems to lack not only the educational value but common sense as well.  Putting whales and trainers in danger “for the sake of the show” appears to be the mantra to live by at SeaWorld parks.