Roxanne’s Rescue and Release

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(Photo taken during Roxanne’s rescue)

Many of you have had questions regarding Roxanne’s rescue and release, so I wanted to clear a few things up, and to urge you to continue donating to help Riverhead Foundation’s efforts to Free Roxanne.  I spoke with Kim Durham, Rescue Program Director, to gain more information and a better understanding of what goes into Roxanne’s rehabilitation and release.

The decision for Roxanne to be a rehabilitation candidate was originally made by NOAA Fisheries after she was reported to the hotline.  She was found thrashing on a sandbar in approximately 2 feet of water east of the Fire Island Inlet in the Great South Bay.  She came in weighing 603 lbs and very thin.  Her initial physical exam revealed dehydration and gastric hemorrhaging.  She was given fluids and started to eat squid on her own later that night.

Since her rescue, Roxanne has gained over 100 lbs by eating 75 lbs of squid per day. This costs the foundation $200 per day.  The total cost for her rehabilitation is estimated at $150,000.

The Riverhead Foundation is the only facility in the NE or SE regions, other than in Florida, to have the resources available to rescue cetaceans.  The only other option would be euthanasia.  They were the first to successfully released another Risso dolphin, Rocky, back in 2005.  For more information about Rocky you can visit the website.

The cost of the release being requested is to cover the vessel cost, ground transportation to the release site, and reconstruction/repair of the crate to transport her.  The wooden crate has endured water damage.  Funding is also needed to repair her rescue sling so that it will be ready to use for the next rescue.  They also need ongoing funding to repair their dolphin ambulance and it’s cabinetry, which has become damaged.

Riverhead Foundation just received authorization yesterday from NOAA Fisheries to proceed with the release of Roxanne.  That is great news!  They have targeted August 28-29 as her release window even though continued funding is necessary.  The foundation will need to dip into their reserve funding, knowing that turtle and seal rescue season is quickly upon them as well.

The vessel, Stony Brook University SOMAS RV Seawolf, has already been secured for the release.  This vessel has the ability to transport the crate to the release location and offers the best alternative for sliding Roxanne off the stern.

Riverhead Foundation, and in particular this release, should be celebrated for their willingness to continue these costly rescues.  The bottom line is that if it weren’t for them, Roxanne would not have survived.  We should continue to support their efforts and celebrate Roxanne’s release.  As you can see, it doesn’t come cheap.  Roxanne will be the 4th successful rehabilitated and released Risso dolphin ever!

With the Taiji dolphin drives resuming in the next couple weeks, this is a situation that we DO have control over and we CAN help.  Riverhad Foundation does not want to keep Roxanne for display as other marine facilities often do.  That should also be celebrated.  As advocates and activists, this is the type of campaign that we should give our full support.

Please continue to do what you can to support Riverhead Foundation and Roxanne’s release.  Click the link for the donation sight.

The Curious Case of Daniel Dukes

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Today’s post by Voice of the Orcas includes horrifying testimony from former animal care handler Cynthia Payne.  The post is tragic enough in itself as Cynthia talks about heartbreaking stories surrounding Gudrun, Nyar and Gwen.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s a must-read.

What stirred things even further was a comment posted by another former employee, KJ.  KJ describes more details about the night that Daniel Dukes, Tilikum’s second victim, was found dead on Tilikum’s back.  According to his comment, KJ says that there was a calf at the park during that time.  When there is a calf, there should be a minimum of FOUR night-watch trainers.

According to Sam Berg, another former trainer, the night watch trainers job is to take respirations on every animal twice an hour for 5 minutes.  Where were they?  How could they have missed a dead body in the pool all night?

People have questioned the circumstances of Duke’s death for a long time, but this only brings up the point even more.  Not one, but four, people in the area and NOBODY saw or heard anything?  It seems rather suspicious.

Those who were present at the time of Dawn’s death in 2010 stated that they could hear and see commotion from A pool, the opposite side of Shamu Stadium.  I find it hard to believe that anyone in the area could have missed what happened, much less all four.  Where were they?  SeaWorld has also maintained that there is no video surveillance that showed what happened. What about the Sky Tower camera?  Where was the security guard?  The guard is known to stop by the area every few hours to check on things.

Many have wondered how Dukes got into the pool.  Did he jump?  Was he pulled in?  SeaWorld report states that Dukes drowned, but there are so many questions left unanswered.  His body was dismembered, genitals removed.  Did that happen before or after his death?

It has been easy for SeaWorld to once again blame the victim here, especially since he is not here to defend himself.

We might never have the answers, but it does make you wonder.

The SeaWorld hole gets deeper

SeaWorld keeps digging themselves deeper and deeper in the hole.

Last month they came out with eight assertions regarding the documentary Blackfish. Those were soon proven wrong by David Kirby, author of Death at SeaWorld, and the Blackfish film itself.  The controversy spawned a media flurry, only drawing more attention to the film and the absurdity of the assertions.

This week, Orlando Sentinel’s Jason Garcia reported that SeaWorld’s 2nd quarter earnings have tanked.  SeaWorld lost $15.9 million in their second quarter.  Total revenue slipped 3 percent.  Total attendance dropped 9% during the quarter.

In true SeaWorld style, they listed several excuses for the loss, mainly the unusual rain in Florida.  Really???  Neither Disney nor Universal cited weather as a factor in their earnings.  Poor weather in Virginia and an early Easter holiday were other excuses listed.

SeaWorld also said that part of the loss was intentional due to their recently raised ticket prices.  Costs associated with the recent stock offering also contributed to the loss.

SeaWorld believes that the new Antactica: Empire of the Penguin is going to make up for the loss in upcoming months, but the attraction has gotten mixed reviews and Blackfish continues to gain momentum, passing the $1 million at the box office last weekend.

The New York Times has reported that Blackfish has also caused Pixar to review and change the ending to the upcoming sequel of “Finding Nemo”, which initially had an ending involving a marine park.  Pixar has decided to rewrite that part of the story so that fish and mammals have the option to leave.  Although it is still confusing as to WHY an animal would CHOOSE to live in a marine park, but the change is still a positive one, none the less.

This could get very interesting as Pixar is included in Walt Disney Studios.  Disney’s Epcot theme park houses dolphins in it’s Living Seas exhibit.  Perhaps this will cause them to reflect on the inappropriate nature of having these dolphins on display.

Loggerheads released in FL while belugas wait for what’s next

Today the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet, FL released 3 loggerhead turtles: Seymore, Parker and Zee.  All were rescued from area beaches in the beginning of May.

I had the opportunity to visit the turtle rescue at Marine Science Center at the end of June to see these 3, and 5 others.  The facility has an impressive set-up to care for these turtles and the volunteers are obviously dedicated to the work they are doing. All the tanks were clean, information is available on the rescue and condition of each turtle and there are pictures on display of other releases.  I vowed that day to be there when the next turtles were released and today was the day.

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(This is a photo of Zee in the rehabilitation center in June)

Seymore was the first turtle to be released.  Seymore was a juvenile loggerhead who had been found severely anemic and emaciated.  After being carried down to the water, he took off with vigor.  He knew he was going home and he was ready!

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Next up was Parker.  Parker had been rescued from New Smyrna beach after being caught by a fishing line with a hook in the corner of his mouth.  He also headed quickly into the water towards freedom.

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Zee, the largest of the three, was the final turtle to be released.  Zee was also anemic and severely emaciated with barnacles and algae covering him.  He was a little more hesitant, but steadily moved towards the water and out to sea, popping his head up a couple times for a peek.

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The turtles are all tagged so that they can be identified in the event that they would be found again, but the facility is not equipped with any tracking device.

Before the turtles arrived at the beach today, me and my scattered brain decided to check email and had received notification of the NOAA denial of the beluga whale import from Russia.  This decision has taken over a year to be finalized, but thankfully it was worth the wait.  Last June, Georgia Aquarium submitted a permit request to have these whales imported to the US and distributed to various marine mammal facilities including SeaWorld and Shedd Aquarium.  After a public hearing and comment period in October, NOAA reviewed the permit and made their decision yesterday to deny the request.

The fate of these whales is now up in the air, presumably to be put up for highest bid to another facility if Georgia Aquarium doesn’t decide to sue or resubmit a new petition.  All eyes will be on the situation to see what happens.

What a great day it has been!