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Demo planned on Saturday for Marineland's lonely killer whale Special

By Elizabeth Batt     May 27, 2014 in Environment
Niagara Falls - A solitary orca in her 37th year of captivity will gain a voice this weekend. Cetacean advocacy groups and their supporters, are planning to protest for Kiska, a 42-year-old Icelandic whale captured in 1977 and housed at Marineland in Canada.
Members from organizations Ontario Captive Animal Watch (OCAW), Fins and Fluke (FAF) and the Toronto-based, Orca United, will take Kiska's story to the public on May 31, outside of the Niagara Falls marine park.
Mini Krishnan, the founder of Orca United said the picket will be a peaceful one, "intending to highlight the plight of Kiska, Canada's last captive orca."
Kiska has been at the park since 1977 but has spent the last few years of her life alone since her companion orca, Ike, was sent back to SeaWorld over concerns for his health. In the US, keeping a killer whale without any cetacean companion, is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Krishnan, who visited Marineland on May 23 to assess animal conditions for herself, called Kiska's situation shocking:
She was alone in a small tank and swam in endless circles for the entire hour I was talking to her trainer. Occasionally, she is let out into another adjacent tank where she is fed and can be viewed underwater. After 20 minutes she is called back to her original tank which has no shade or overhang. I watched her eat dead fish and gelatin, and she had no teeth.
Krishnan said when she approached a trainer about the animal's mental health and whether swimming in circles was a sign of boredom, she was told, "Oh, she's [Kiska is] just lazy."
Alex Dorer, the President of the ocean advocacy group, Fins and Fluke, implied that Kiska's conditions had not improved since her visit to see the whale during Marineland's opening weekend last year. "The memories still haunt me," Dorer said. "To see this incredible and beautiful animal, whom I'd only ever seen in the wild with large families, was horrific. She spends her day floating in her tank with no companion, no enrichment and no interaction. For a social animal this is unacceptable. You can feel her pain when you look at her. I often tell people she is a shell of an animal, she's just there ... but not because she wants to be. She's given up."
In October 2012, Kiska's former trainer Christina Santos expressed concerns over the orca's welfare in an interview with the Toronto Star. Santos's concerns were shared by Phil Demers, another former Marineland trainer and one of the first to blow the whistle on poor conditions at the park. Both are facing multi-million dollar lawsuits from Marineland owner, John Holer.
Krishnan told DJ that they are expecting around 100 people to attend but that the event is growing quickly. The protest will call for the release of Kiska to either a different facility where she can be with other whales, or to the care of an organization that can ensure a sea pen for her. "The event's main purpose is to educate the public on the detrimental effects of captivity," Krishnan added, "and we'll be providing information on Kiska and Marineland's practice of keeping cetaceans captive for those who are interested."
Dorer said that as Canada's last remaining lone-orca, "we feel a sense of urgency for her. Out of all the animals suffering at Marineland she is the one who needs attention. We don't want to see Marineland shut down, we want to see the lives of the animals improved and for them to be moved to sanctuaries or appropriate retirement facilities."
The event begins at 11:00 AM at Marineland, (7657 Portage Road) and is expected to last for 3-4 hours. It is the third protest this month to be held at Marineland since it opened for the season on May 17. Mike Garrett, a long-time critic of the marine park is also expected to attend, as is ex-Marineland trainer Phil Demers.
Further details about the protest being organized by OCAW, FAF, Orca United, and Shelley King Chamberlain, are available on the 'Free Kiska' Facebook event page.
More about kiska, marineland animal abuse, protest at marineland canada, marineland, Niagara Falls Canada
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