8 June 2023
On World Ocean Day, let’s speak up to save the blue planet, encourages our Editor, Celia Nicholls. To mitigate climate change, we need to protect orca, to help protect the entire planet!
It’s World Ocean Day and – you might be surprised – Born Free is joining in the celebrations. We’re better known for land-based conservation of course, from lions and tigers, to elephants and more. But, with freedom at our heart, our charity has always heard the ocean calling and, since our inception, has campaigned to end the exploitation of marine species, especially in captivity.
Today, one of our most popular animal adoptions is the young orca Springer, who lives wild with her two children in the waters off Vancouver Island, Canada. Like all orca, Springer is a deeply intelligent, family animal but, remarkably, she also helps combat climate change. Orca are a ‘keystone species’, and these sensitive, sentient mammals play a key role in sustaining the health of their habitat, so countless thousands of other species can thrive. But, that’s just for starters.
The blue lungs of our planet
As guardians of the ocean, orca provide vital services to human society. As much as 80% of the world’s oxygen is produced by phytoplankton and seaweed, and these marine organisms take up carbon dioxide as they photosynthesise. So, the ocean is a ‘blue lung’, helping mitigate climate change, so we all can thrive. We need to protect orca, to protect oceans, to protect the planet!
Like us, orca spend their lives in close-knit and richly nuanced communities, surrounded by family members. Each population is unique and complex, with an intricate, unparalleled culture, passing skills and languages on through generations. But, orca are facing a crisis. We pollute their ocean home and capture individuals from the wild for our outmoded ‘entertainment’. Today, 55 orca and thousands of other dolphins and whales languish in concrete tanks, in dolphinaria around the world.
A voice for captive marine animals
Born Free has battled to end the exploitation of orca and other marine species since we began and, over the years, there have been many highlights. Back in 1986, our very first scientific investigation exposed the suffering and widespread abnormal behaviour of polar bears – the only marine bear species – in UK zoos. This was followed by our report on UK dolphinaria in 1987, which exposed inadequate facilities and led to tighter regulations and the end of UK dolphinaria in 1993. We even returned three of the UK’s last captive dolphins – Rocky, Missy and Silver – to the wild in 1990, into the clear blue waters of the Turks and Caicos islands, in the Caribbean.
Wild orca study and rescue
Since 1994, Born Free has provided support for our friends at Orcalab, as they study wild orca behaviour and safeguard their future in Canada – the world’s longest running study of wild cetacea (dolphins and whales). Incredibly, in 2002, we helped them rescue Springer when still just a baby, who had become separated from her mother and was found swimming alone near Seattle, USA. Orcalab identified Springer by her unique calls and she was successfully reunited with her wild family in Canada, going on to give birth to her first baby, Spirit, in 2013 and her second child, Storm, in 2017.
Action in Europe
In 2009, Born Free helped establish the Dolphinaria-Free Europe network of animal welfare organisations and professionals, working together to end the keeping of cetaceans in captivity. Then in 2010, we rescued two more wild-caught bottlenose dolphins, Misha and Tom from an appalling captive facility in Turkey. After an extensive programme of rehabilitation, they were released to the wild in May 2012.
In 2011 we published a headline-grabbing report on captive dolphins and whales in the EU, with Whale and Dolphin Conservation, revealing many dolphinaria failed to meet EU legislation. In 2013, we organised a European tour of the award-winning Blackfish film, a searing indictment on keeping dolphins and whales in captivity. Then, in 2020, our award-winning Creature Discomforts film by Aardman Animations used people’s experience of lockdown to highlight the lives of orca and other wild animals forced to live under lock and key.
Every sea creature matters
In 2021, after years of our campaigning, two turtles Genoveffa and Gavino were released back to the wild and swam to freedom off the coast of Sardinia. The pair were rescued from terrible conditions at an aquarium, following many reports to Born Free’s Raise the Red Flag platform. In 2022, an incredible 104,655 supporters signed the Born Free-backed petition in our ongoing campaign calling for the UK to halt trade with the Faroe Islands, until they stop their cruel dolphin hunts.
To this day, our work continues to end the exploitation of marine animals. Please, on World Ocean Day, pledge never to visit a facility holding them captive AND support orca conservation in the wild by adopting Springer today.
Image credit: R G Agarwal