Saturday, February 27, 2010

Orcas, Earthquakes and the News: Listen to the Animals

 Image of Keiko, public domain

Strange Planet has a good post about the recent earthquakes, including yesterday's 8.8 earthquake in Chile. As Strange Planet points out:

 An 8.8 compared to Japan's 7.0 is not a quake 1.8 times the intensity, as many of you know. It's exponentially horrific. A 7.1 is ten times the power of a 7.0, a 7.2 is ten times a 7.1, and so on.

When the sea lions left the San Fransico area, I posted that they left for a reason, and I said that they left because of soon to be witnesses earthquakes. Strange Planet also wonders, as I did last night when I heard the news, if the OCR attack on his trainer wasn't in some ways due to the earthquakes. Giant squid washing up on beaches all up and down the coast, and other unusual marine life behaviors --- we've been witnessing this recently. A combination of factors, including global warming/climate changes, which the earthquakes are a part of.

As to the orca Tilkumat and the death of his trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld and that tragedy, part of that tragedy is that whales and other creatures (big cats, elephants, etc.) are kept in captivity in the first place. Strange Planet comments:

 Several days ago, there's the sad incident at Sea World in Orlando, Florida, where a trainer was killed by a 12,000lb. OCR. Reps for the park called it a deadly misstep on the trainer's part, leaving her ponytail wagging in the water, signaling the animal to seize it as a 'toy'. Could be. Could also be that he wants out of this bathtub and back into the wild, and that he also sensed something out there. Because if you remember, in the interviews that followed with the staff, they said all of the animals were behaving strangely, were agitated, and just weren't performing as they know how. There's something deeper there. [italics mine]

There certainly is "something deeper there."

The tragic end of Keiko (the orca known as "Free Willy" and kept at the Newport, Oregon aquarium until his release into the ocean) is not something I want to see happen again. I don't know if releasing Tilikum the orca (I will not use the exploitive and titillating term "killer whale") back to the ocean is the right thing to do. Maybe it is, I honestly don't know. A start to prevent these tragedies, and, to simply prevent the imprisonment of sentient beings like orcas in the first place, is to make it illegal to keep these creatures in captivity.

As to the events occurring now, local news (Eugene, Oregon, about 50 miles inland) tells us of tsunami warnings on the Oregon coast because of the earthquakes in Chile and Japan. According to the KEZI news website:
The National Weather Service has issued a tsunami advisory for the Oregon coastal area.  Coastal residents are advised to stay out of the water, off the beach, and away from harbors and marinas.

This is not a watch or warning. No significant coastal flooding is expected to  be produced by this wave.  However, some areas of the coast could experience dangerous currents and surges in harbors and bays due to this tsunami. [a href=””> Massive Quake Prompts Tsunami Advisory For Oregon Coast

I heard about the earthquake in Chile from Ian Punnett on C2C. He said there weren't any details but that the news was, an 8.5 (at the time, that's what was reported; today's paper said it was 8.8) earthquake in Chile. So I turned on the TV, with our roughly 250 channels, and I couldn't find one news program. 11:30ish pm, and not one news program. I mean news, like the old CNN, where you had simple, straight forward information coming in about what was going on in the world. What I found were "news" shows having to do with entertainment, news shows, of a sort, with a host or two but clearly the show was about them, and what they wanted to focus on, which seemed mostly to be the tragedy at SeaWorld. The most news I got was from the Weather Channel.

In an odd bit of juxtapositioning, the following item was in today’s local news about Oregon’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport: State OKs money for Oregon marine mammal center:
Assuming Gov. Ted Kulongoski signs the bill, researchers at Hatfield hope that amount will be enough to win $16 million in federal funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, also called NIST. Combined, that would be $25 million, enough to build the new center.

"This would establish a unique center, a university-based center for the study of marine mammals," said Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute. "It would be the largest in the U.S.

"It will give us the unique capacity to advance technology for the study of and protection of marine mammals, including satellite tagging, advanced studies of life history and analyses of genetics diversity."

As with the people of Haiti, my prayers and thoughts go to those in Chile as well.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Orca Kills Trainer at SeaWorld

Extremely tragic event: Whale kills trainer as horrified spectators watch. Tragic of course for the female trainer, and those that loved her. But also tragic because this didn't have to happen; but sadly, as news tells us all too frequently, animals in captivity do attack their trainers, and they attack because they're sentient, wild creatures that do not belong in artificial habitats, like a SeaWorld. Disturbing because this orca, named  Tilikum, (refered to as a "killer whale" to further exploit this sad event) was exhibiting behavior that signaled its distress, yet Tilikum was one of the orcas in the performance, as one audience member who witnessed the death described:
Skaggs said he heard that during an earlier show the whale was not responding to directions. Others who attended the earlier show said the whale was behaving like an ornery child.

And this:
Because of his size and the previous deaths, trainers were not supposed to get into the water with Tilikum, and only about a dozen of the park's 29 trainers worked with him. Brancheau had more experience with the 30-year-old whale than most, and was one of the park's most experienced trainers overall.
"We recognized he was different," Tompkins said.
Despite this, the orca continued to be kept in captivity (at this late date, what alternative would be better? The tragedy of Keiko proves that releasing an animal back into the wild isn't always the best choice either ) and continued to be used as entertainment. The "previous deaths" referred to include:
A SeaWorld spokesman said Tilikum was one of three orcas blamed for killing a trainer in 1991 after the woman lost her balance and fell in the pool at Sealand of the Pacific near Victoria, British Columbia. . . Tilikum was also involved in a 1999 death, when the body of a man who had sneaked by SeaWorld security was found draped over him. The man either jumped, fell or was pulled into the frigid water and died of hypothermia, though he was also bruised and scratched by Tilikum.
It's possible the whale was playing:
Steve McCulloch, founder and program manager at the Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Program at Harbor Branch/Florida Atlantic University, said the whale may have been playing, but it is too early to tell.
"I wouldn't jump to conclusions," he said. "These are very large powerful marine mammals. They exhibit this type of behavior in the wild.
Tompkins, the SeaWorld head trainer, said of the whale: "We have no idea what was going through his head."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Eugene, Oregon Police Seek Volunteer Subpoena Servers

From my town's local paper, the Register-Guard, this item about the police asking for volunteers to serve subponeas:

Ex-cops with a little time to spare are hereby notified that Eugene police need help issuing court orders to crime victims and witnesses.

Police are looking for a handful of retired or former law enforcement officers to volunteer for subpoena-serving duty, which officials say should save the city about $30,000 annually.

This is the same town that literally grabbed citizens from the streets to serve on juries. 

Dolphins Ride the Waves

Wonderful photographs of dolphins surfing the waves in South Africa. Really stunning!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Oregon's "Religious Garb" for Teachers Law

I have a piece at Oregon LOWFI about Oregon's recent "religous garb" law, including observations about some of the esoteric elements in this story.