STORIES OF CAPTIVE KILLER WHALES



Moby Doll, captured in 1964

...the first live orca exhibited in captivity.Vancouver Aquarium commissioned 38-year-old sculptor, Samuel Burich, to find and kill an orca whale, and to fashion a life-sized model for the aquarium's new British Columbia Hall. He set up a harpoon gun on Saturna Island in British Columbia's Gulf Islands. Two months later, a pod of 13 killer whales approaches the shore. Burich harpoons a young whale, injuring but not killing it. "Immediately, two pod members came to the aid of the stunned whale, pushing it to the surface to breathe. Then the whale seemed to come to life and struggled to free itself--jumping and smashing its tail and, according to observers, uttering 'shrill whistles so intense that they could easily be heard above the surface of the water 300 feet away.' Burich set off in a small boat to finish the job. He fired several rifle shells at the whale...but the orca did not die.

The aquarium director, Murray A. Newman, soon arrived from Vancouver by float plane and decided to try to save the 15-foot-long 1-ton whale. Using the line attached to the harpoon in its back, Burich and Bauer towed the whale to Vancouver. It took 16 hours "through choppy seas and blinding squalls" to drag the whale to Vancouver. Moby Doll is put into a makeshift pen at Burrard Drydocks, and becomes an international celebrity and a magnet for scientists. Killer whales had been recorded by the Royal Canadian Navy in 1956, but no study was made of their sounds until Moby Doll's capture.

William Schevill and William A. Watkins of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts visit Moby Doll to study and record her sounds. Scientists and others who observe the whale comment on the whale's docility, tameness. "The whale seemed to be suffering from shock...For a long time, Moby Doll...would not eat. She was offered everything from salmon to horse hearts, but the whale only circled the pool night and day in a counterclockwise pattern." After 55 days in captivity, Moby Doll begins eating--up to 200 pounds of fish a day. But the whale has developed a skin disease from the low salinity of the harbor water, and continues to appear exhausted. The whale dies a month later, after 87 days in captivity. Newspapers around the world chronicle Moby Doll's death. The Times of London gives the whale's obituary a two-column heading, the same size given to the outbreak of World War II. "The widespread publicity --some of it the first positive press ever about killer whales--marked the beginning of an important change in the public attitude toward the species." Postscript: the autopsy revealed Moby Doll to be a male, not a female.
(Source: "ORCA: The Whale Called Killer,"
by Erich Hoyt, 1990 edition)



namu captured 1965
the bull killer whale is accidentally caught in a gill net near Namu, British Columbia, Canada. Fisherman Bill Lechkobit's gill net had become entangled in a reef, so he cut the net loose. In the morning, two killer whales, "blackfish" as the fishermen called them, were found in the net--a bull and a calf. "The first day, ...the bull slipped out through a place between the net and the rocks, as if showing the calf the route to freedom. The baby stayed put, so the bull returned. Two days later, the calf was gone, but for some reason, the bull remained."

Namu is brought to the Seattle Public Aquarium by Ted Griffin, swimming roughly 450 miles behind Griffin's boat in a floating sea pen. The public falls in love with him: a rock 'n roll song is written and a popular movie is made with him (called "Namu the Killer Whale"). He eats 375 pounds of dead fish a day--five percent of his body weight. He is the first killer whale to perform for the public. Yet, despite his rapport with Griffin, and his acceptance of his new performance and feeding routines, Namu is heard to issue "loud, strident screams' regularly from his Rich Cove pen. At time, his cries were picked up by passing Puget Sound whales, who apparently returned his calls." Then, with no warning, Namu dies due to an infection from polluted water in his pen. It is July, 1966. He had survived 11 months in captivity.



shamu october 1965
...Caught by Ted Griffin and Don Goldsberry in Carr Inlet, Washington, Shamu was their first successful live-capture orca whale, and the first in a long succession of ' Shamus' - the stage name given to performing orcas in the U.S. Sea World chain of parks. They put her in the pen with Namu for a short time, they were apparently good companions, then she was flown to Sea World San Diego in December, 1965. According to Erich Hoyt's book, Shamu made distress calls throughout her first day at Sea World. Not always nice, on one occasion, she bit a girl's leg and played tug-of-war with her, reports Hoyt. Shamu died at Sea World San Diego in August, 1971, after six years in captivity.



lolita , captured 1970
...Lolita is caught during a highly controversial 1970 whale roundup at Penn Cove, Washington. Several whales die during this roundup and later wash up on a beach, with bellies slit and weighed down by steel chains. Several other whales from that set were sent to aquariums. Lolita alone survives. She lives and performs at the Miami Seaquarium in Florida. (Note: "Lolita's Legion" was formed in 1996. It is a group of schoolchildren working to free Lolita and includes 3000 children in six countries. For information, email Carl Dortch: lkitto@gfk.auracom.com.)



keiko 1979
...Keiko is caught off Iceland. A calf, barely 2 years old, he gets caught in a herring fishing net and is shipped on a cargo plane from Iceland to Marineland of Ontario, Canada. One of six orcas being trained by the park, he is the youngest and most timid. 1985--Keiko is bought by Reino Aventura, an amusement park in Mexico City, Mexico. 1992--Keiko is cast in the Warner Brother's film, "Free Willy," by producers Lauren Shuler-Donner and Jenny Lew Tugend. 1993--"Free Willy" is released, and becomes Warner Brothers' second highest-grossing movie that year at the box office. After the film is over, more than 300,000 people from around the world call an 800 number at the end of the film, expressing their wish that Keiko be released, like the Willy character he played in the film. 1995--"Free Willy II" is released to the theaters. 1996 January --Keiko moves to Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport to begin his rehabilitation, after two years of negotiations between the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and Reino Aventura. The goal: to teach him to eat live fish again, to increase his vigor, muscle tone, skin condition, and weight, so that he may be released to the wild and hopefully, reunited with his family.

1997-98 Training Keiko to capture and eat live fish continues, together with overall conditioning. The current plan is to relocate Keiko to a protected sea pen in the North Atlantic, possibly in 1998, where he can continue to receive care and begin a final phase of rehabilitation, until it's decided whether he can be released to the wild. Possible sea-pen sites under consideration include Iceland, Ireland and Scotland.



shamu corky 2
In 1977, Corky had her first calf, the first killer whale to be conceived and born in captivity. But the calf was brain damaged, and soon died--and so did at least four more of Corky's calves. Corky's calf born in 1986 failed to nurse, so every six hours, around the clock, Marineland employees hand-fed the baby. Corky II is believed to be from the A5 pod, which lives in the waters off northern Washington and southern British Columbia. She was caught in Pender Harbor, B.C, Canada, in December, 1969, sent to Marineland in California until 1987, then to Sea World, California, where she is still alive, performing, and producing today, under the "stage name" Shamu.

When a tape of Corky's family vocalizations (recorded by orca expert Paul Spong) is played for Corky, she shudders long and visibly.



junior, 1984
Junior spent his first two years post-capture in Saedyrasafnid, Iceland. At the end of 1986, he went to Marineland of Ontario in Canada. Zoocheck Canada Inc wrote this memorial for Junior: "Junior was a male Icelandic orca whale who languished in a tiny tank inside a 'warehouse' at Marineland for more than four years, cut off from outside air, sunlight and normal companionship. Junior died at Marineland in 1994." According to whale expert Erich Hoyt, other orcas who have died at Marineland include: Kandu II, Kandy, 'No name' and 'No Name.'"

(Source: Zoocheck Canada Inc., in Toronto;
"ORCA: The Whale Called Killer,"
by Erich Hoyt, 1990 edition)



tilikum
Captured in November, 1983, in the waters of Iceland. He was at Saedyrasafnid, Iceland, until November, 1984, and then was moved to Sealand of the Pacific, a marine park in Victoria, British Columbia. In November, 1991, Tillikum is an estimated 20 feet long, and 11 years old. Sea World, Inc., applies to U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service for a permit to import the male orca, noting that Sealand of the Pacific plans to discontinue the display of killer whales in its facility in 1992. It also notes that the two female orcas at Sealand with Tillikum are pregnant. Sea World's application reads: "Due to the disruptive and potentially harmful impact this male may have on the success of mother/calf nursing and bonding, authorization is requested for the relocation of this animal to Sea World of Florida as soon as possible."January, 1992: To separate him from the other orcas, Sealand places Tillikum in a tiny holding pool, where his health is undermined to such a degree, that Sea World applies for, and receives, a permit to import Tillikum on a medical emergency basis.




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