My Born Free colleague Samantha has a sorry tale to tell about life and death, rejection and separation.
Here’s what she told me.
SeaWorld’s 2014 Christmas present arrived early with the birth of a new baby orca at its San Diego park on Tuesday 2nd December. The calf was born to 10-year-old orca Kalia but the park has yet to confirm which orca sired the calf. Beneath the video of Kalia’s ultrasound it states that Ulises is the father by artificial insemination. However, former SeaWorld trainer, John Hargrove, not only described the artificial insemination of the then 8 year old Kalia as ‘repulsive’ but stated ‘Until I see a DNA test on the calf, I don’t believe Ulises is the father. My entire career we collected sperm from Ulises and he never got a female pregnant naturally or via A.I – now they expect us to believe his sperm is magically viable.’
Wild orcas generally begin to breed at about 14.9 years of age, however SeaWorld has bred orcas as early as the age of six. One such individual is Kalina, who was separated from her own mother Katina when she was just four years old, and moved to San Antonio where she was allowed to mate with Kotar at the young age of six years. All four calves she went on to have were separated from her. She died at 25 years old from Septicema whilst residing at SeaWorld Orlando.
First time mother Kalia currently lives at San Diego with her own mother Kasatka, although for how long? Kasatka herself was separated from her first calf, Takara, after 12 years when Takara was taken to SeaWorld Orlando. Takara lived there with her own calf, Kohana who was transported to Orlando in 2004. SeaWorld boasted at the time that both Takara and daughter Kohana had remained together at Orlando. However, at only three years of age, Kohana was separated from her mother and taken to Loro Parque in Tenerife, Spain.
At Loro Parque, Kohana has been used for breeding and by the unnaturally young age of eight she had birthed two calves with no mother or matriarchal figure to learn from. She rejected her first calf, Adan, who was hand reared and later re-united with her. She rejected her second calf, Victoria, who died within a year.
It’s a cycle of profound sadness.
As I say, it’s a tragedy on so many levels and it’s a story that will go on while enough people continue to pay good money to witness the incarceration of orca in marine parks around the world.
Has the tide turned? Will the Blackfish effect have the same power and impact as the story of Elsa and Born Free had all those years ago – and still does today? I hope so!
Freedom is not a dream.