Why We Fight for Nonhuman Rights: Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut’s Story
An Entertainment Abuses Articles from All-Creatures.org

FROM NonhumanRightsProject.org
September 2021

After the young orca’s death decades before his natural lifespan, separated from his family, after weeks of starvation, and a skin disease brought on by low salinity waters, how does the Vancouver Aquarium justify his capture? According to Newman, “I love that whale. I think that capturing it was the best thing I ever did.”


Sometime between 1964 and 1967, as the US enters the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement slowly, haltingly bends the moral arc of the universe towards justice, a baby orca slips from her mother’s body into the Salish Sea off the coast of Washington State. She is a strong swimmer already, staying at her mother’s side, nursing and touching and communicating as she is welcomed into her mother’s family.

As the days and years pass, she continues to swim with her mother, expanding her repertoire of her pod’s unique dialect, which she’s been hearing since she was in utero. She learns to hunt and eat the Chinook salmon comprising the majority of her diet. She spyhops, frolics, and plays with other young orcas in her pod. Like all orcas born into the three pods of the Southern Resident orcas, she will stay with her mother for life—or she would have, had she been born just over a decade later.

It will be two decades before people start to track the declining population of Chinook salmon her family eats, three decades before the salmon will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, which, at the time of our little orca’s birth, is still six to nine years away from being passed by Congress. In the 1960s, the PCBs and other environmental contaminants that will amplify up the food chain are reaching their peak, concentrating in the blubber of the orcas and in the fatty milk the young orca drinks from her mother. These contaminants will threaten the health of her family for decades to come.

But more significantly in the life of our little orca, she has been born into a time of changing public sentiment about members of her species. Since Pliny the Elder described orcas in the first century AD as “an enormous mass of flesh armed with teeth,” most humans, except for some populations of indigenous people, have feared orcas as predatory monsters. Even their latin name, Orcinus Orca, means a barrel-shaped cask of the realms of the dead. Their common name, killer whales, likely came from a mistranslation of “whale killers,” since some populations of orcas, who are actually the largest species of dolphin, work together to hunt and kill whales. Even in the years surrounding our little orca’s birth, people aboard fishing boats often shoot orcas because they consider them competition for fish. And yet, it is not bullets that threaten our little orca, it is not fear and hatred of her species, but rather, fascination and curiosity and a different sort of desire to dominate.


Plesae read THE ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE - an in-depth look at Lolita's sad history of Lolita (PDF)

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