Thursday, January 10, 2013

All Trapped Whales Need A Miracle

It was disturbing to hear about the killer whale pod trapped in the Hudson Bay ice with little prospect for escape. Apparently, the frantic whales were taking turns surfacing at a small breathing hole. It was presumably their repeated surfacing that kept the hole open and free of ice preventing them from drowning.

Many people called for the Canadian government to send an icebreaker to create an ice free path that the whales could follow into open water. But there were no icebreakers anywhere in the area and it would have taken far too long for one to arrive. By the time an icebreaker could get there, the whales would be long dead.

Various other options were put forward, such as cutting a pathway of holes or even euthanizing the whales if there was no hope of escape and they were suffering.

A number of years ago, three gray whales were in much the same predicament. Trapped in the Arctic ice off the north shore of Alaska, the whale’s plight attracted global attention. Eventually, with the help of a Russian icebreaker, they were freed. The incident was the subject of a popular book and then a Hollywood movie called Big Miracle.

The latest news is there’s been a miracle in Hudson Bay. The ice has shifted and now it appears the killer whales are free. It was a close call and if things were even a little bit different those whales would probably be dead.

Just like the Alaskan grey whales, the plight of the latest trapped whales became international news. Word of the plight of the killer whales spread like wildfire, primarily due to the internet. It was great to see the level of concern expressed by people from all walks of life and all geographic regions of world. I have no doubt that if they understood what was happening, the whales would have been grateful.

It’s great that the killer whales are free. They can continue to enjoy their lives with their family, friends and acquaintances, traveling far distances and taking in everything the ocean has to offer. But that’s not the case for some whales.

Also in the news during past months has been the plight of whales at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario. While there is only one lone killer whale left at the facility, there are also several dolphins and approximately 40 belugas. Their lives bear no resemblance to the lives their wild counterparts live. They can do little of what they’ve evolved to do and are really like living museum pieces.

I encourage anyone who was concerned about the trapped wild killer whales to think about the plight of whales trapped in captivity. They deserve a miracle too.

Rob Laidlaw
Zoocheck Inc.

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