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Posts from the ‘Dolphins & Whales’ Category

Bernie, Belugas and the Home Depot

"Whew," Bernie Marcus mutters to himself. "As long as everyone's talking about SeaWorld, they won't be coming after my Georgia Aquarium. At least not for the next few weeks."

Bernie, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, donated $250 million to create the Georgia Aquarium. He calls it charity. The animals there call it a prison. And two weeks ago, yet another beluga whale dropped dead there.

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The Whale Who Took Down SeaWorld

A footnote to my earlier post about the quandary now facing SeaWorld. Much credit for what's happening in the marine circus world goes to the movie Blackfish, which took millions of people behind the scenes at these facilities. Credit also goes to the former killer whale trainers who now campaign vigorously against keeping these animals in captivity, and to the animal protection world just generally.

But there's one key figure in what's been happening who isn’t acknowledged for starting the whole process. That would be Tilikum, the killer whale who set all of this in motion when he killed his trainer in 2010. Read more

What Should SeaWorld Do Now?


If you were the new CEO of SeaWorld, what would you do?

Last week, you saw yet another nail being driven into the coffin of your company when the California Coastal Commission ruled that if you want to build new, bigger and better tanks for your killer whale shows, you'll also have to stop doing any more captive breeding and refrain from transferring any more whales in or out of the country.

As CEO, you're also trying to deal with the fallout from your company's latest financial report: net income for the second quarter of this year fading from $37.4 million in 2014 to $5.8 million in 2015.

And you're struggling to turn back the growing tide of public opinion against having killer whales and dolphins doing circus tricks in exchange for food. (Plus you're dealing with seemingly endless scandals like when a SeaWorld staffer was found posing as a badly-behaved animal protection activist.)

So, what are you going to do? The options you're considering are:

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Secrets of the Dolphin Brain


Two dolphins who died more than 10 years ago after becoming stranded on a beach in North Carolina have just given a team of scientists some remarkable new information about how dolphins process sound.

The team has discovered that while we humans have just one pathway from the inner ear to the brain, dolphins have at least two. (A bit like Mr. Spock in Star Trek having two hearts!) Read more

How SeaWorld Is Like Scientology

hargrove-040115If you've seen how SeaWorld is responding to John Hargrove's new book Beneath the Surface, it's hard to miss the similarities with Scientology's dirty tricks campaigns as portrayed in the HBO documentary Going Clear. SeaWorld is operating right out of the Scientology playbook.

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Hoofin’ It Up with the Humane Society


As some 90 diners trekked around four restaurants in Denver this week, Angela Huffman of the Humane Society of the United States, which is sponsoring the four-night gourmet event, proudly explained that the HSUS supports the slaughtering of animals "in conditions that do not abuse them."

So we're being told that taking a baby lamb from her mother and killing her for a gourmet festival is not abuse. That's the premise of an event that's billed as a "farm-to-table guided culinary tour through four Denver neighborhoods."

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SeaWorld Stock Officially in the Tank


When SeaWorld's stock took a dive earlier this year, the company claimed that the weather and the timing of Easter were to blame for the drop in attendance.

But their stock is continuing to fall, and the business world is now saying there's no doubt what the problem is: People understand that marine circus shows involve a lot of animal abuse.

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SeaWorld Becomes a Laughing Stock


You know your company is in trouble when everyone starts laughing at you. That's what's happening to SeaWorld now that the activists have been joined by the hacktivists. And for SeaWorld it's no joke.

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The Two Arguments of the Taiji Hunters

Where the dolphins are shipped after they're captured at Taiji

The latest dolphin drive hunt at Taiji is now "over".

Over, that is, for the dolphins who are dead – 41 according to Sea Shepherd. And over for the people who massacred them and are busy pocketing their profits. But certainly not over for the 52 dolphins who were taken captive and are now being shipped around the world to marine circuses and hotels where tourists will pay hundreds of dollars to "swim with dolphins" and thousands of dollars for quack "dolphin therapy" sessions.

And anything but over for the 140 or so dolphins who were driven back out to the ocean. Most of them will die from their injuries or from being orphaned or separated from their pod and with no idea where to go, what to do, or how to live on their own.

Last week, as U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy joined the chorus of criticism, the Taiji hunters and the Japanese government responded with two main arguments. One of them is contemptible nonsense; the other is something we need to think about.

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Blackfish, CNN and SeaWorld’s Silence

Blackfish-1-102313If you haven't seen Blackfish yet, be sure to watch it on CNN tomorrow evening. The movie by Gabriella Cowperthwaite uncovers much of what SeaWorld has tried to cover up about the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau – and about the many other trainers who have been killed or injured at SeaWorld and other marine circuses.

Kudos to CNN for its part in producing Blackfish and for airing this remarkable movie. But I do have one issue with them . . .

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Rescuing Foggy the Humpback Whale


Foggy and Grommet are well known to whale-watching boats off the coast of Nova Scotia. The two humpback whales are rarely seen apart from each other.

Last week, when Christine Callaghan was leading an outing from Pirate's Cove Whale Watch, she saw Foggy caught in a mass of fishing equipment. She was completely immobilized. Callaghan writes:

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Navy Dolphins Scout for Mines in Croatia


Last week, six dolphins took off from their HQ at the U.S. Navy's Marine Mammal Program in San Diego on a flight to Zagreb, Croatia. Their mission (whether or not they chose to accept it): Find unexploded bombs and shells off the coast of Dubrovnik.

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Shamu’s Exercise Machine

SeaWorld is planning to install exercise machines for the orcas it holds captive at its marine circuses.

Orcas like Tilikum, SeaWorld’s biggest killer whale, who has killed three people and now spends most of his time languishing motionless in a small tank, could get some longer-distance swimming time.

Should we give SeaWorld a thumbs-up for this?

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Surfing with Dolphins


This is what happens when a good photographer, a surfer and some dolphins all happen to meet up at the same time.

The place was Kalbarri, Australia; the surfer Trent Sherborne, and the photographer Matt Hutton, who just happened to be testing out a new lens for his camera. He told Pete Thomas:

After an hour of shooting, a pod of dolphins started to follow the surfers in on the big waves so I took the opportunity to try to capture some amazing photos, which I think I was lucky enough to do. The surfer has come forward saying it was a magical experience and something he will never forget.

On Hutton's Facebook page, Sherborne writes:

Mate, that's a sick shot and it's me on that wave with the dolphin! I remember that wave clearly – obviously you don't get to eyeball a dolphin like that every day!

Other surfers were out there, too, but according to Hutton Sherborne was the only one the dolphins decided to pose with.

(To which I'd only add that you can't do anything like this at SeaWorld or some other shabby swim-with-dolphins program.)

More photos by Matt Hutton here.

Want to Sell a Book about Dolphins? Call Them Dumb!

dolphins-090913(Sept. 12, 2013: Note: Justin Gregg has responded to this post, saying that he was seriously misquoted in the London Sunday Times article we reference below. So I've added his response at the end of the post.)

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Major Victory for Belugas


It's being hailed as a very significant victory for the anti-captivity movement. Today, the U.S. government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) denied the Georgia Aquarium's application to import 18 beluga whales, captured from the ocean, and share them around the country with other marine zoos and circuses.

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Top Predator in Action

orca-chases dolphin

SeaWorld likes to talk of them as being part of "our family" – as though the top predator of the ocean can somehow be adopted and treated like a baby by a bunch of businessmen who wouldn't last five minutes if they were dropped into the ocean.

But the photo here shows the immense power of a killer whale. It's one of a series on the Daily Mail, where you see this 8-ton orca leaping 15 feet out of the ocean in pursuit of a bottlenose dolphin in a chase that apparently went on for two hours.

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The Dolphin Who Escaped


She spent the first 10 years of her life in the ocean off the coast of South Korea with her family. Then, captured accidentally in a fishing net, from which she should simply and promptly have been freed, she was instead sold to the Pacific Land Aquarium, where she spent three years in a tiny underground pool, forced to do tricks to entertain customers in exchange for food.

Finally, the Mayor of Seoul stepped in and ordered Sampal the dolphin and her two pool companions at the aquarium to be released.

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‘Hey you, Double-Squeak Clickety-Click!’


A new study explores how dolphins use their individual signature whistles (equivalent to their “names”) to stay in touch with each other. Not only do they call back and forth with each other’s “name”; but when one dolphin calls out the signature whistle of another, the other one will swim over to see what’s up – like two friends shouting out to each other in a crowd.

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SeaWorld Hits Back at Movie ‘Blackfish’

blackfishmovie-071613SeaWorld is clearly worried about the movie Blackfish, which opens in New York and Los Angeles this weekend, and across the country over the next month. The hugely profitable company has just written to movie critics all over the country in an attempt to stem the tide of rave reviews and the accompanying scathing indictments of the marine circus business.

The film offers a devastating view of SeaWorld – and by extension all the other marine circuses – in what is a riveting investigation of the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at the hand, or rather mouth, of Tilikum, the depressed, angry, probably-psychotic killer whale, who finally turned on her, dragged her under the water, and literally tore her apart.

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