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Ninety percent of the minke whales hunted and killed each year in Norwegian waters are female and " almost all" of them are pregnant, according to a documentary aired earlier this month on NRK, a government-owned public broadcasting company.

The documentary, Slaget om kvalen ("Battle of Agony"), shows grisly footage of Norway's whaling industry, including one bloody scene where a fisherman cuts open a whale and removes its fetus.

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The Vancouver Aquarium is back in the spotlight this week, following the death of another beluga who died shortly after losing her calf.

Sally Anderson / Flickr

Just over a week ago, a 21-year-old beluga named Qila died of causes that are still unknown. Shortly after, her 29-year-old mother Aurora started showing the same symptoms Qila exhibited and was reported to have suffered from abdominal cramping, a loss of appetite and lethargy.

Sadly, despite receiving round-the-clock care from veterinarians and staff, she also passed away. According to the aquarium, the cause of their deaths is still being investigated, but it's suspected that they were caused by a virus or toxin.

Aurora's passing adds to the growing death toll for captive belugas and the tragedy of her loss is only compounded by life she experienced. Not only did she lose her freedom, she watched three of her babies die during her time in Vancouver.

Qila was Aurora's first born. Tuvaq, her second, who was a male, was born in 2002 and died in 2005. Nala, her third, was born in 2009, but died just a year later.

Qila herself also gave birth to one calf, Tiqa, in 2008, but just three years later she was also dead.

The ongoing mistreatment of belugas and continued attempts to breed them landed the Vancouver Aquarium on In Defense of Animals' (IDA) first annual list of the 10 Worst Tanks for Dolphins and Whales in North America over the summer.

While the Vancouver Aquarium owns five other belugas who are on loan to marine parks in the U.S., there are now no belugas at the aquarium and organizations including IDA and the Vancouver Humane Society, and the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are calling on the aquarium to shut down its cetacean exhibits forever.

"Aurora and Qilas' horrific deaths should be a wake-up call for Vancouver," said IDA's cetacean scientist, Dr. Toni Frohoff. "Even the most modern technology, veterinary care and infrastructure could not help Aurora, Qila or the many other belugas who have suffered and died in captivity. It's time to stop exploiting these intelligent and sensitive animals and close Vancouver's dying pools for good."

Following Qila's death, the head of Vancouver's park board announced she was going to formally propose bringing the issue of captive cetaceans to voters during the next civic election in 2018. Animal advocates are hopeful that move could potentially stop an expansion of the aquarium's current beluga exhibit, which is expected to start early next year and will ultimately keep belugas out permanently.

For more on efforts to retire whales and dolphins who are currently in captivity to sea sanctuaries, check out the Whale Sanctuary Project and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Laura Goldman

In the desert near Scottsdale, the new tourist attraction Dolphinaris Arizona opened for business on Oct. 15. Customers will pay hundreds of dollars for the opportunity to swim with its three captive dolphins.

How did those dolphins get there? They were flown from Hawaii by FedEx.

Two activists from the nonprofit advocacy group, Animal Rights Hawaii, went inside a FedEx cargo warehouse at the Honolulu Airport in late September and filmed a container holding the dolphins. The video was posted on the Animal Rights Hawaii Facebook page.

The dolphins were likely kept inside the shipping crate for at least 12 hours, based on the flight itinerary.

"I think it was definitely shocking for a lot of people to see that FedEx is transferring live animals in a box," Alexis Thomas of Animal Rights Hawaii told Hawaii News Now.

The dolphins were provided by Dolphin Quest, a swim-with-dolphins company with two locations in Hawaii and one in Bermuda.

"I've been with these animals since they were born," Michelle Campbell, Dolphin Quest's vice president of animals, told Hawaii News Now. "They're second-generation dolphins under our care and no one cares more about them than we do."

But Alexis Thomas, who took the video, said one of the dolphins was showing signs of stress.

"The Dolphin Quest trainers were consoling the animal, who seemed to be in obvious distress, likely from the confinement of the box that it was in, of course, all of the noises that were happening, the fear of the unknown," she told Hawaii News Now.

Once their flight began, the dolphins were likely "bombarded with foreign sounds, sensations, changing air pressure during flights and are known to vocalize and thrash out in fear," Lisa Arnseth, co-founder of Dolphin Free AZ, told CBS 5.

The dolphins' scary experience didn't end when they finally landed in Arizona the next morning. The three are now part of the interactive "Dolphin Swim Experience" at Dolphinaris Arizona.

Learn About Dolphins by Shaking Their Fins and Rubbing Their Tummies

"Join the pod! You'll love our dolphin swims," says the website. "Swim with our dolphins in shallow water. Then interact by shaking a dolphin's fin, listening to their unique sounds and learning about their amazing evolutionary adaptions for life in water or simply caressing a dolphin's back or tummy!"

This is the first—and hopefully last—Dolphinaris tourist attraction in the U.S. There are also several locations in Mexico, where the company is based. CBS 5 reports that its newest facility is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but is not "bound by state-level regulation," which is troubling.

Dolphinaris Arizona is described on its website as "unique in design with an emphasis on providing animals variable enrichment and habitat." The only thing "enriching" about places like this that allow people to swim with dolphins are all those tourist dollars going into the owners' pockets.

As for the habitat, summer temperatures in Scottsdale average in the triple digits. But no worries! The Dolphinaris Arizona website notes that there are shades over the habitat, "though some direct sun is natural and healthy for dolphins." I don't understand what is "natural and healthy" about the desert sun beating down on these captive dolphins.

Not only is the heat an issue, but allowing people to swim with dolphins has been proven to have a negative impact on these animals. The stress has caused behavioral abnormalities, illness and lowered resistance to disease and death, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation. For these reasons, TripAdvisor recently did the right thing and stopped booking tickets to attractions that allow people to interact with captive wild animals.

More Than 167,000 Care2 Members Opposed Dolphinaris Arizona

As soon as Dolphinaris Arizona announced it planned to open in Scottsdale, animal lovers began to protest. More than 167,000 Care2 members signed a petition urging the CEO not to open the tourist attraction. Their signatures were hand-delivered on Oct. 16.

Regardless of the petition and the fact that similar tourist attractions like SeaWorld are experiencing huge drops in attendance, Dolphinaris Arizona opened for business anyway. Hopefully, anyone who cares about the welfare of animals will boycott it and tell everyone they know to boycott it as well.

And as for FedEx, the company needs to follow in TripAdvisor's footsteps and stop contributing to this cruel industry by transporting animals held in captivity. Please join more than 121,000 Care2 members who have signed and shared this petition telling FedEx to stop transporting live dolphins for the captivity industry.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.

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