Dear Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister Yasir Naqvi,
I am writing from Australia for Dolphins (www.afd.org.au), a Melbourne-based cetacean protection organisation.
I write on behalf of Canada’s last surviving captive orca, Kiska, being held at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Australia for Dolphins commends the introduction of Bill 80, which bans the breeding and acquisition of killer whales in the state of Ontario.
Orcas were introduced into captivity in Canada when we knew little about their capacities and needs. Today, a vast body of scientific research shows that orcas are highly social and intelligent animals, which swim vast distances in the wild on a daily basis. It also shows they suffer immensely in captive environments.
Which is why I urge you to include Kiska in the proposed legislation and to extend the bill to include other highly intelligent cetaceans, such as dolphins.
If Kiska is left out of this legislation, she will continue to suffer in a small tank all on her own. She may even live out the rest of her life in isolation.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States recognises that orcas are ‘highly social animals that occur primarily in relatively stable social groups’. Given what we now understand about orcas’ social lives and emotions, we can conclude it is likely that keeping orcas in isolation is detrimental to their wellbeing.
The discrepancy in life expectancies between wild and captive orcas also provides strong evidence that captivity is detrimental to the health of orcas.
In the wild, orcas live an average of 50 to 60 years. Orcas born in captivity, however, only live to an average of 4.5 years old. Sadly, proof of these statistics can be seen in the vastly premature deaths of all five of Kiska’s calves that were born in captivity, the oldest of which only reached five years old.
Animal welfare watchdogs have repeatedly raised credible concerns regarding the conditions at Marineland, where Kiska is held. The facility has been investigated by Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) and the Ontario Society for the Protection of Animals for alleged animal abuse, amongst others.
In August 2012, The Toronto Star interviewed former employees of Marineland who cited sporadically poor water quality and chronic staffing shortages at the park for the ill health, and even death, of animals at the facility.
The health and well-being of Kiska, who has lived in these substandard conditions for roughly forty years, can not be left to this controversial marine park.
A move by Ontario to ban the captivity of orcas would be progressive, and in line with rapidly changing public opinion. Animal welfare concerns have grown widely throughout the community since the 2013 documentary Blackfish, depicting the detrimental effect of captivity on the health of killer whales. Ontario has an opportunity to address these concerns and be seen as a world leader in animal welfare.
Furthermore, international animal welfare bodies and responsible corporations globally are taking a stand against cetacean captivity. The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums has taken a strong stand on the inhumane captivity of dolphins this month and, through the Virgin Pledge, Virgin has led a group of corporations which have promised not to support cetacean captivity.
Cetacean captivity has also been outlawed in a growing number of countries, including the UK and Switzerland.
It could be said that the history of orca captivity is already written, and with this Bill, Ontario has the opportunity to be one of the leaders that shut down a primitive and inhumane practice.
Given their similarity to orcas, we implore you also to include other highly intelligent cetaceans in this bill, including dolphins. This would make Ontario an international role model, leading from the front towards better conditions for all cetaceans.
Minister Naqvi has stated that the government’s focus is “the health and well-being of Kiska”. He says, “we want to do what is best for her and all other marine mammals in Ontario.”
In order to fulfil this assurance, Kiska must be included in the legislation.
Should this omission be remedied, Australia for Dolphins supports Ontario Captive Animal Watch and marine mammal expert Dr. Naomi Rose, in requesting Kiska be moved to a more suitable facility – preferably a sea sanctuary.
We also join with respected NGOs, including World Animal Protection, Zoocheck, and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies in requesting that the importation of other wild-caught cetacean species, such as dolphins, also be prohibited.
This Monday May 25th, when you are presented with Bill 80, please remember Kiska, listlessly swimming all alone in a woefully inadequate tank. Please do the humane thing, and make sure she, and other highly intelligent cetaceans, are not left out of this important bill.
Today is the last available day to lobby Ontario parliament to include Kiska and other highly intelligent cetaceans in the historic Bill 80. Join Australia for Dolphins in writing an email to the responsible members, and ask them to do the right and humane thing!
Premier Kathleen Wynne
and: [email protected]
Minister Yasir Naqvi