Tilikum, the orca torn from his family near Iceland when he was just two years old, died yesterday at SeaWorld Orlando.
He suffered in captivity for more than 33 years, having food withheld when he did not “perform” correctly. His tank mates scraped his sides with their teeth because they, too, were hungry.
Like all orcas in captivity, Tilikum had a collapsed dorsal fin — a sign, for decades, that he was in distress. His sperm was used to create more orcas in captivity.
Tilikum was the star of the 2013 documentary, “Blackfish,” which showed the world the horror of his living conditions. SeaWorld’s profits and stock price tanked, and the company subsequently said it would stop its “Shamu” shows and stop breeding orcas in captivity.
Hopefully, the lessons from his tragic life will save orcas from future suffering.
Unfortunately, we are not there yet.
Tokitae, popularly known as Lolita, is an orca captured with four family members near Whidbey Island in 1970. She’s the only one surviving.
A judge ruled earlier this year that she will remain at the Miami Seaquarium, despite expert reports that the dolphins with whom Tokitae shares a small tank have scraped their teeth on her skin more than 50 times in one year. She often needs antibiotics and painkillers.
U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro decided that did not constitute “grave harm.”
And so Tokitae is not coming home, despite a detailed and feasible plan that’s in place whenever the humans with power over her life choose to free her.
Here’s Judge Ungaro’s email (I think): email@example.com
And email for the Spain-based CEO of Palace Entertainment, which owns the Miami Seaquarium: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr. Eiroa,
Tilikum’s death this week was another reminder of the graveness of Tokitae/Lolita’s incarceration in Miami.
Although Judge Ungaro decided that dolphins scraping Tokitae’s sides more than 50 times in one year did not constitute grave harm, you have the power to show compassion and send her home.
As you know, there’s a viable and detailed plan for doing just that. Just say the word, and the money will come — from Seattle and elsewhere — to free her.
Please do the right thing before it’s too late.
Photos from Blackfish
The Seattle City Council’s final Budget Meeting is tomorrow. Please come to speak out against funding the confinement of suffering animals. Ask the City Council to put the money toward parks programs, off-leash parks and under-served communities rather than more money for the zoo.
Also, please write an email with NO more money for the zoo in the subject line to: Council@seattle.gov
The City has a contract with the Woodland Park Zoo which mandates over $7 million dollars in annual payments. (King County pays the zoo $4.2 million annually). The 2017 budget includes an additional $1.8 million dollars to the Zoo through the Seattle Parks District. The City Council makes the Seattle Parks District’s funding decisions. This $1.8 million dollars is DISCRETIONARY and must be stopped.
The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. and all in-person 2 minute (or less) comments will be heard. Sign-up sheets will be provided outside the entrance of the City Council Chambers. If you wish to speak, please sign up at 4:15.
What: Seattle City Council BUDGET meeting.
When: Tuesday, October 25 at 5:30pm
Public comment: Sign up at 4:15pm
Where: Seattle City Hall at 600 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104. City Hall chambers on the second floor.
We join the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants in calling on the Oklahoma City Zoo to have compassion for Bamboo, our beloved elephant, and retire her to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.
This call follows a new report in The Seattle Times saying Bamboo has been attacked in her new home in Oklahoma City and her tail bitten so severely that it was called an “amputation.” (Thank you to the paper and to reporter Sandi Doughton for the continued coverage.)
“Our hearts go out to Bamboo who is experiencing attacks from one or more of the elephants at the Oklahoma Zoo. In a tiny zoo yard, there is no space to flee and escape from an attack. Bamboo is also suffering from serious, captivity-related foot problems and colic. Bamboo has frequently been isolated as a result of these attacks,” the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants wrote.
Here is contact information for officials at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Please remember that they did not make the decision to keep Bamboo and Chai out of a sanctuary, but they can make the decision now to send Bamboo to one.
Cindy Batt, Chairperson — She works in the private bank division of Bank of Oklahoma. Its phone number is (405) 936-3900.
Don Kaspereit, Vice Chairperson — 12308 Kingsbrook Rd, Oklahoma City, OK 73142
Sample message for phone or mail:
Hello Ms. Batt/Mr. Kaspereit, I’m calling/writing from Seattle to ask that you send Bamboo to a sanctuary now that it’s clear she is not doing well in Oklahoma City. We know that you’ve done your best to care for her, but the compassionate thing to do at this point is to send her to a sanctuary. Zoo managers have a hard time making that decision themselves, because of the politics within the zoo industry (cite Seattle Times story from a few years ago if necessary), but you as chairperson/vice chairperson of the board can make a difference for this elephant without risking your career. I hope you will consider doing that. Bamboo has suffered enough. Thank you.
You might be thinking, “What the heck is mutton busting?”
At mutton busting events, popular at state fairs, terrified sheep are “ridden” by children in front of a screaming audience.
Sheep are gentle, highly sensitive “prey” animals who desperately try to run away from the kids, whom they see as predators. The sheep have no escape from this highly stressful event.
From September 2 to 25, the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, Washington, plans to host this cruel event in addition to traditional rodeo activities. These animals need your voice now!
Please contact the Washington State Fair Foundation and ask officials to cancel “mutton busting.”
Please call and send polite comments to:
Washington State Fair Foundation
110 Ninth Ave. S.W.
Puyallup, WA 98371
Today is International Tiger Day.
Please speak up for baby exotic animals, including tigers, who suffer at roadside zoos. Undercover investigations at roadside zoos has revealed horrible abuse. Roadside zoos are atrocious prisons for wild animals who should be free. Zoos that offer the public to have photo sessions with these dangerous animals are bad for the animals and for people.
The Humane Society of the United States is pushing for new regulations because existing regulations are not effective. We need a complete ban on the commercial use of captive wildlife, many of whom are endangered species.
Follow the link to an HSUS page where you can urge the USDA to adopt regulations completely prohibiting public handling of all big cats, bears, primates and other dangerous wild animals.
The Stop Animal Violence Foundation posted an account on Facebook this week of animal mistreatment at Havasupai in the Grand Canyon by outfitters including REI.
Some quotes from it:
The photos, including of open sores and saddle sores, are posted on Facebook. The witness called some of the outfitters and was told they don’t use pack animals.
Please visit the Facebook page, which includes links to more information about the horses and mules, and follow up with emails to the Havasupai Tribal Council, REI and other outfitters insisting that wranglers stop running them, tied together or not, up and down the canyon. And, for heavens sake, stop packing them with cooler and propane tanks.
REI CEO Jerry Stritzke: email@example.com
REI Chief Information Officer Julie Averill: firstname.lastname@example.org
REI Head of Communications Alex Thompson: email@example.com
Subject: Photos of REI pack animals at the Grand Canyon
I was dismayed to read an eyewitness account of REI coolers and propane canisters being slung on already hurting pack animals at Havasupai in the Grand Canyon. I understand that some outfitters deny they use such animals — but there are photos with this post. It’s a shock to see REI’s name and services associated with this sort of treatment of horses and mules.
Xyz in Seattle or in Washingon State
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant thinks that — and the fact that his state’s last aquarium was ruined by Hurricane Katrina — makes a new aquarium on the coast a good way to spend $17 million of the damage money the state is getting from BP. “The outdoor water feature includes a dolphin exhibit where visitors could feed and touch the animals,” according to the SunHerald in Biloxi.
Gov. Bryant is wrong.
“I used to work as a dolphin trainer at Marine Life in Gulfport, before it was washed away by Hurricane Katrina. I know first-hand that a new facility for captive dolphins is the last thing Mississippi needs,” according to an online petition to stop the new aquarium.
The public has already made clear that they don’t want to see orcas in captivity. Why would they want to see dolphins?
Please sign the petition above and write to Gov. Bryant letting him know the BP money should go to a more worthy project. Here’s his online contact page.
The event is canceled! Thank you for being a voice for animals.
Please thank pastors Dr. John Paisley and Ken Griffin for doing the right thing (emails below).
On Sunday, April 3rd, Riverview Baptist Church in Pasco, Washington, is planning a “Chicken Chase.”
The event is as cruel as it sounds. Chickens will be released into an arena so children can chase them, catch them, and “win” the chickens. Chickens are delicate, and this terrifying event will no doubt cause injury and stress to the poor animals. And when caught, how do kids properly care for them? This event fails to help kids learn to respect animals and reinforces the idea that they are simply toys and here for our entertainment.
Please ask Riverview Baptist Church to do the right thing and host an alternative event instead (an event in which all the participants are there of their own free will).
You can send polite comments to:
Dr. John Paisley, Senior Pastor
Click here to send an email
Ken Griffin, Co-Pastor
Click here to send an email
Riverview Baptist Church
4921 W. Wernett
Pasco, WA 99301
The blood infection that killed Chai in Oklahoma City came after the elephant lost 1,050 pounds in the short time since she’d left Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, The Seattle Times learned from a public records request.
Chai was weighed only twice at the Oklahoma zoo, records show, although she’d dropped from 8,150 pounds when she left Seattle on April 15 to 7,100 pounds when she died in January.
An Oklahoma City zoo veterinarian said they relied on a visual scoring system. “You couldn’t see her ribs, nothing that would indicate the degree of fat loss that was going on,” Jennifer D’Agostino told Times reporter Sandi Doughton. (Today’s paper also included the supposedly celebratory news that the Woodland Park Zoo has named a baby gorilla it bred in captivity. Her name is Yola.)
If a veterinarian couldn’t see Chai’s deterioration, it would be even harder for a Woodland Park Zoo docent who visited Oklahama City and wrote that Chai’s last days were “happy.”
Now we know they were horrific. Twice in the weeks before she died, Chai was unable to stand up.
We also know from the records Doughton received that Bamboo, the other Seattle elephant who was transferred to Oklahoma instead of to a sanctuary, was distressed enough during one public performance that she knocked Chai off her feet.
It’s not too late to get Bamboo to a sanctuary. On the advice of Nancy Pennington and Alyne Fortgang, co-founders of the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, please do these two things in Chai’s memory:
1. Write an email to Mayor Murray and the Seattle City Council. Addresses to cut and paste are below. Just one line will do!
2. Sign this petition: http://www.peta.org/action/action-alerts/oklahoma-city-zoo-close-elephant-exhibit/
firstname.lastname@example.org, Ed.email@example.com,Kshama.Sawant@seattle.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org ,Sally.Bagshaw@seattle.gov,
Tim.Burgess@seattle.gov, Bruce.Harrell@seattle.gov, Mike.OBrien@seattle.gov, Debora.Juarez@seattle.gov, Lorena.Gonzalez@seattle.gov, Rob.email@example.com
SeaWorld says Tilikum is “beginning to deteriorate,” which likely means that the long-suffering orca who actually has deteriorated for years is dying.
While it’s too late to release Tilikum, who was captured as a youngster more than three decades ago off Iceland, the Puget Sound’s own Lolita can still know freedom.
A “retirement” plan would reverse her 1970 capture in a Whidbey Island cove, a tragedy in which seven oracas were ensnared.
“The waters churned and boiled white with agitated whales fighting to escape from the confining nets,” Sandra Pollard wrote in the book “Puget Sound Whales for Sale,” as quoted in an extensive look at the subject by The Stranger.
“Their desperation and terror was all too apparent as they spy-hopped repeatedly, raising their strikingly colored black-and-white heads from the water”—to look around—”coupled with high-pitched shrieks and cries echoing across the usually tranquil cove,” she wrote.
A witness told The Stranger, “It was the weirdest sound I have ever heard in my life. Like babies crying but much louder.“
Lolita — also known as Tokitae — is the only orca captured that day who’s still alive.
An 8-minute video depicts her daily life at the Miami Seaquarium.
A member of L-pod, she belongs to the Southern Resident population, which includes “Granny,” an orca believed to be more than a century old.
It’s time to bring Lolita/Tokitae home, as outlined in a retirement plan with action items we can do to move that agenda forward.
In addition, please join us at the Empty the Tanks event at Westlake Park near Pike Place Market on Saturday, May 11, at 11 a.m.
Let’s keep up the pressure to free Lolita/Tokitae, so she can enjoy a life in open waters rather than lingering and dying as Tilikum is.
Photos from NOAA