interviewINTERVIEW WITH NAOMI ROSE
A MARINE MAMMOLOGIST WITH THEHUMANE SOCIETY OF THE U.S.



WHAT ABOUT THE ISSUE OF CAPTIVITY RELATING IT SPECIFICALLY TO KILLER WHALES AND DOLPHINS? WHAT'S YOUR ASSESSMENT?

Well, the Humane Society of the United States opposes keeping whales and dolphins in captivity, for public display, for shows, because there's just no way that a facility can provide for these animals. Their environment is so alien to ours that in the end what you end up with, is a sterile environment for them in captivity.

They can travel 50 to 100 miles in the day. They can live for 40, 50, 60 years or longer, for killer whales. They live in family groups, they have a whole ocean, and a very rich environment that the ocean provides and then what you do in captivity because of their health concerns and because of hygiene, you put them into a swimming pool, into a sterile environment, and it's the best we can do for them in captivity and it's just not good enough.

WHAT ABOUT THE SONIC ENVIRONMENT FOR THEM IN THE WATER?

When you have them in a concrete tank, these are very acoustic animals which means that they rely very heavily on their hearing. We rely so heavily on our vision and on our sight, we can't really understand that. They have perfectly good vision but they're completely sonic creatures, their echo location, their passive listening is just far superior to ours. And so to put them into a concrete environment where it is very monotone and there's simply no variety, no texture, no substance, no depth to the environment why use their echo location, they know where the four walls are, it's an extremely limited environment.

There's nothing in the tank, there's no fish, there's no algae, there's no anything and so, it's not that they can't use their echo location in a concrete tank, it's--why use it? They know exactly the limits of their environment so there's no point to it and I think it's a terrible thing to take away from them.

And, as far as the complexity as I was saying there's just no complexity in a concrete tank. Even in a sea pen or at least the water is natural sea water and there's maybe a little fish or two swimming through the, the pen because of the net that surrounds them, it's not concrete, even there, they are so restricted. There's four walls.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHALES AND DOLPHINS....

Whales is the umbrella term that includes all of the whales and dolphins and porpoises. The Latin is cetacean and we use the word whale in English. And underneath that are all the subdivisions and you've got the baling whales, which are the great whales, the blue whale, the fin whale, then you've got the toothed whales, which includes the largest, which is the sperm whale - but also all the dolphins and porpoises. So, they're all whales.

REGARDING LIFE IN CAPTIVITY--IS THE WATER CHLORINATED?

That used to be the absolutely standard way of cleaning and keeping clean a tank, now they've been developing new techniques and new technology because in fact chlorine is bad for them. I mean I don't know if people really understand that it's the same as if we lived in a tank full of chlorinated water all the time, I mean yes they have skin and their physiology and whatever's adapted to living in the water. But, when you put chemicals in it, it's just as irritating to their eyes, it's just as irritating to their skin, it dries it out and it was very harsh to them.

And the industry was aware of that so they were working --this is from the 60's to the 70's and to the 80's--on new technologies and now they're trying to get to say ozonation, using ozone to purify and keep bacteria and whatever out of the water and, I understand that so far that's better than chlorine, but there may be some side effects and drawbacks to ozone as well.

So, again I have to come back in the end, we can't provide them with an adequate environment. You restrict them, and you immediately get a toxic soup. You've got a problem, they live in that water all the time. So to keep it clean you either give them the ocean which is what, of course, they should have or, you put chemicals or some other filtering process into the water to keep it clean and that's harsh to them, it's very hard on them.

WHAT ABOUT THE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD VERSUS THE LIFE SPAN IN CAPTIVITY OF DOLPHINS AND KILLER WHALES?

Looking at longevity and life spans, between the wild and captivity for whales and dolphins is kind of hard. Because whales and dolphins have only been held in captivity - dolphins since the 30's, and whales since the 60's. And we've only been studying them in the wild - for maybe 20 or 30 years. So that it's imprecise at this point.

But we can say this, that looking at the entire captive population, and then looking at some very well-studied wild populations of dolphins and whales, killer whales-- they don't compare very favorably. You're looking at for instance the annual mortality rate which is the best comparison, okay, looking at how long they live is not so good because, we think they live a lot longer than we've been studying. But we can look at them every year and see how many die every year. And in captivity for dolphins, that's about 6%. For killer whales it's about 6, 7% a year die of the entire population.

That doesn't sound like a lot but compared to the wild, a very well- studied population of bottle nosed dolphins, only about 4, 4 and a half percent die every year and for killer whales and other whale study population of killer whales in British Columbia only 2% die every year. So the mortality rate in captivity for killer whales is three times higher and that's the way you need to look at it, doesn't sound like a lot when you say 2%, 6%, but that's 3 times higher.

What's going on? What's killing these animals before their time? Females die routinely in captivity during their reproductive years. They never do in the wild. It's very, very rare for reproductive female to die in the wild; she'll die once she hits menopause, same thing. So something's going on in captivity, something is taken from them. It may even simply be something psychological, maybe they die of boredom, frankly. I mean we really couldn't say, stress, diseases they may not get, aggression between animals that wouldn't normally fight. But just risks and threats that they don't face in the wild. Eating coins, eating bad fish, things that might not happen in the wild. So something's killing them before their time in captivity, routinely.

WHAT ABOUT THE EATING OF COINS?

Yes, that's happened. It's zinc poisoning, foreign objects, ingesting any foreign objects. People throw things into these tanks. They think they're some sort of good luck fountain or something.

It's just shocking to me that certain facilities in particular, just cannot control their audience, cannot control the customers. And they don't try, they don't police them. And so the petting pools is a particular problem, people feed things to these dolphins in petting pools, they're not supposed to. Or they're only supposed to feed them the fish that they're supposed to buy at the little kiosks, but little kids, you can't control what little kids do, people have tried to shove things down dolphins' blowholes. These animals die from harassment and from well- meaning people who just don't know any better and the education they're getting at these facilities isn't helping.

WE'VE HEARD CLAIMS FROM SEA WORLD AND OTHERS THAT REPRODUCTION PROGRAMS IS THE FUTURE. AND THAT IT'S TERRIFIC AND THEY HAVE A GREAT SURVIVAL RATE.

Well in order to justify their existence, and in fact in order to avoid wild captures, which are very bad publicity-wise, a lot of the captive facilities, particularly the bigger, more well-endowed ones, are really pushing their breeding programs. And for bottle nosed dolphins, they've had a pretty good success rate lately. And yet they are still not self-sustaining, even though they have a fairly large population in captivity that is breeding and you would think that they could be self sustaining. And yet they're still not so despite their claims that they're doing really well with their breeding programs for bottle nosed dolphins. I have to question it. Because they still are not self sustaining.

Also, they claim they have a very good survival rate and they should of course, because of the intense veterinary care that's given when they give birth and in the first few weeks of the calf's life. And yet their survival rate for calves is really not much better or in fact in some cases is worse than in the wild. So why is that? I mean, it's tough out there, in the wild and the mortality rate for calves is very high. But it's about the same or maybe only slightly better and in some cases slightly worse, in captivity. Why is that? There's no predators, there's no sharks, there's no bad weather, there's no problems with food, there's intense veterinary attention, why can't they improve significantly improve, which they cannot claim on the survival rate of calves?

So again you have to ask yourself, what's going on? And in my opinion, it's not the calves' problem, it's the mother's problem, I think she's under stress...

I think the stress is constant, I believe there's a constant low-level stress put on these animals because of the confines of where they are, because of the limitations of their lives, socially, physically. I mean she's pregnant, and, any stress is bad for a pregnant mammal, human, dolphin, dog, cat, doesn't matter. And I think that it doesn't help the survival of her calf that she's under that constant stress.

YOU MENTIONED THAT CAPTURES ARE BAD PUBLICITY FOR THE BIG PARKS. WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

The dirty little secret of a public display industry is that to remove these animals from the wild is an outrageously traumatic, violent process. And, what most people don't realize is that whales and dolphins, to a large extent, still come from the wild-- unlike lions, tigers and bears in zoos which basically have self-sustaining breeding populations, and have had self sustaining breeding populations for generations. They don't catch zebras from the wild anymore. They don't catch black bears in the wild any more, they simply don't do that. But they do still do that routinely, because they're not self sustaining yet and the only species that's close is the bottlenosed dolphin

So every time you see a killer whale, every time you see a false killer whale, every time you see a Pacific white sided dolphin--and those are relatively common species in captivity--every time you see a beluga whale--be aware that most of the animals you're seeing were born in the wild, and were captured relatively recently.

And to take these animals out of the wild, you have to chase them down with boats, you have to completely traumatize them, you have to throw a net around them, you have to jump on them wrestle them, throw them into a boat, they're completely traumatized, capture stress is a very real phenomenon Again, they cannot deny it exists, and it kills. The mortality rate, post capture, is significantly--this is a statistic thing, it's scientifically studied-- is significantly higher for about a month, after capture, than it is at any other time in their captive lives.

CAN YOU QUANTIFY THAT?

I'd have to go look at the papers, I can't. But for about a month to 45 days after a capture or for that matter after a transport between two facilities, mortality rates sharply spike in bottlenose dolphins and probably in all the other whales and dolphins. They just haven't looked at them 'cause the sample sizes aren't large enough. Again, remember bottlenose dolphins are the most numerous species in captivity. So, in that month to 45 days after transport or capture, stress and trauma cause mortality rates to spike and then they finally go down to the 6% a year that you see under normal circumstances--quote unquote normal.

And so obviously, and you just have to watch. I mean, this is a common sense thing. It's not something you'd have to examine under a microscope. It's a very common sensical, all you have to do is watch a capture, and there's plenty of video out there. Some of these captures, they are outrageously violent. And people don't realize that, as I said, if you go to a facility, and you see a beluga whale, there's beluga whales at Sea World now. There's beluga whales at the Shed Aquarium. There's beluga whales at Tacoma Zoo. Go and look and that animal is almost certainly to have come from the wild, very recently--say from the 80's or the 90's. Just go and look and that's what you should be aware of.

And beluga captures in particular are horrifying. They jump right on the backs of the animals, it's called rodeo. The people who do it, who are hired to do it, they're drinking beer and driving outboards and having a great old time. And they're just jumping on the backs of these animals, hauling them out of the water, totally alien event for these animals. They never come out of the water like that, that's outrageous, drag them up onto shore and then throw them into a tank. Now if I was that whale, I mean I'd be thinking alien abduction, total stress and trauma, and that's what it is. Some of them die.

COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THE DRIVE FISHERY IN JAPAN?

I wasn't aware of this when I first started opposing captivity, when I first started on this job. It turns out that almost every false killer whale--there's about 20 or 30, in captivity in the United States and in North America. And every single one of those animals it turns out came from Japan and they came from the Japanese drive fisheries.

A drive fishery is where a large number of vessels go out, find a pod of whales or dolphins and circle them and with just sort of like herding them as if the boats were horses. They push them in towards shore, they drive them ahead of them, the animals continue to move towards shore until they beach. They're frightened, they're terrified, they're running and they go right up onto shore and beach themselves and then depending on what the purpose of this drive fishery is, whether it's to remove animals for public display or in fact to kill them, and that's more, more commonly the purpose.

Then the people get off the boats and do whatever they're going to do, if they're going to kill them. It's a horrible blood bath, it's an absolute slaughter, it's extremely difficult to kill a whale. And they have, especially in Japan, this is a cultural thing, to them. Whales and dolphins are fish, the word means fish, it's not a mammal at all to them, and it's not that they don't realize it's in a biological sense that they're mammals but to them they're just fish in the ocean. And they think of it that way, culturally. And so to kill them and to do all, it's we have commercial fisheries in the United States and they don't think about it in terms of animal welfare, we probably should but we don't. And so to add to that of course, they aren't fish, they are mammals. They do have large brains. They do experience extremely strong emotions and so it's just a terrible scene. I can't stand watching that footage any more. It's so horrible to watch them trying to kill these animals 'cause they're so difficult to kill.

But they will remove some animals and this started, probably in the 70's and 80's, to sell them to public display facilities. Whether they're in Asia or sometimes in the United States, as I said. Every false killer whale came from Japan, they came from these drive fisheries. It's the only way to capture them there.



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