July 29, 2014

A Whale of a Conversation

I spoke with an acquaintance recently who confessed that she had gone to Sea World in San Diego. She said she felt sad when she remembered some of the things I had told her about wild animals in captivity, but she wanted to know where else people would learn about killer whales if not from marine mammal parks.

I asked her what she had learned at Sea World about the whales. Did she, for example, know anything about their diet?

“Fish,” she said excitedly.

“You mean, dead, frozen fish,” I pointed out to her. “Did you learn they sometimes eat dolphins and seals?”

“No,” she replied. She didn’t know that about them.

Did she learn anything about their behavior, I wondered.

“They can do incredible tricks,” she added, less enthusiastic, but delighted to have learned something about the performing whales.

“So you learned that the whales can do in a pool what they do in the ocean, only in the pool they do it in order to eat, so as to not starve?”

She said I was making her feel bad.

I asked her if she had learned anything about their social behavior, their close family ties, their life-long bonds to one another?

No, she admitted, she hadn’t. She didn’t know the animals spent their entire lives with members of their own family.

I asked her if she had learned anything about their daily activities; that, for example, in the ocean, the whales swim between 70 and 100 miles in a day?

No, she added, even more solemnly than before, she did not know that about the animals.

Did she know about their sonar capabilities, their hunting abilities, their interactions with one another or other pods of whales, their habitats in the oceans and where they are found most frequently, or for how long they live?

No.

I asked if she knew how they love to scratch their bellies on the small pebbles on the ocean’s floor in Puget Sound?

No, she didn’t. And now she seemed ashamed and embarrassed by everything she didn’t know.

“So what did you learn about orcas?” I politely asked her.

Her reply?

“What’s an orca?”

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