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Born Free USA Blog
Adam M Roberts

Born Free USA Blog

by Adam M Roberts,
Chief Executive Officer

When it comes to animals, Adam Roberts not only talks the talk, but also walks the walk. Since beginning his animal advocacy career in Washington, D.C. in 1991, Adam's ambition, tireless involvement, and profound knowledge of conservation and wildlife issues have cemented him as a go-to voice for protecting animals — and he has elevated Born Free USA to the respected and impactful organization that we know today. Adam's compassionate, informed, and forward-thinking blogs will surely motivate you to join us in our fight to Keep Wildlife in the Wild.

Orcas in Captivity?

It's a Black and White Issue!

Published 07/23/13

There hasn’t been a captive orca (also known by those who exploit them as killer whales) in captivity in the UK for many years. In fact there hasn’t been a captive dolphin on display in the UK since the early 1990s when Born Free, as part of the Into The Blue project, led the campaign to release 3 former inmates (one from Flamingoland and two from Brighton Aquarium) into the crystal clear waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

We‘ve said for years and maintain now that captivity is no place for a dolphin - and that includes orca, the biggest members of the dolphin family.

And that is the overwhelming conclusion of a new film that is set to shake the captive cetacean industry to the core.

They say there are stories you have to tell and stories that tell themselves. Blackfish is the latter. Once you start asking the questions you cannot stop the answers!

Blackfish is a damning indictment of the commercial exploitation of magnificent wild creatures and I challenge any reasonable person who sees this film, listens to the testimony of former trainers and hears the evidence for themselves not to come to the same conclusion. It’s over.

I was privileged enough to see the film at a private viewing in London a few weeks ago and to hear the film’s Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite speak of her own epiphany.

She did not set out to make a film that would potentially change our relationship with this species forever. But she has. The more she looked into the deaths and injuries to trainers, the history of wild orca capture, the movement of orca from one facility to another, the training regimes – the more she talked to former employees – many former employees – the more the evidence stacked up.

I believe Blackfish will create such momentum for change that it will prove unstoppable. I believe that people on vacation and travel companies will turn their backs on this form of deprivation and visitors will seek more wholesome holiday experiences, experiences that are not based on the lifetime incarceration of wild animals in postage-stamp-sized, chemically controlled pools (many thousands of times smaller than their wild home ranges) in artificially constructed ‘pods’, where some individuals, according to former trainer after former trainer, become resentful and unpredictable.

Already there have been changes. Trainers at Sea World, the name most widely associated with the exploitation of these marine giants, are prohibited from being in the water with the orca, where injuries and fatalities have become an all-too-familiar part of the story. No longer will the public see trainers riding orca, or rising into the air on the nose of these massive marine giants. Without that, will people be willing to turn up and pay up to $82 (that’s £54) for an adult ticket and $74 (nearly £50) for a child (aged 3-9)? I doubt it!

Films of this quality, this integrity and this compassion are rare. But, like Born Free, The Cove, Christian The Lion, Blackfish is a must-see. It will change part of your world-view forever.

See it. Be informed. You decide!

Freedom is not a dream!

Blogging off!


PS. More Orca News. Check out this link for news of Springer, Born Free’s 13-year old adopted orca, who has just been sighted with her first calf swimming next to her, in the waters off Vancouver Island, Canada. Springer’s story is particularly poignant. Discovered in 2002 as a 2-year-old, swimming alone by our friends at Orcalab (whom we have supported for 20 years), she had become lost when her mother died. She was thin, in poor health, and lonely. The captive industry was keen to take Springer into ‘safety’, but Orcalab was able to identify her by her unique calls and after four weeks recovering in a sea pen she was taken 250 miles, by boat, back to her wild family. Now she is a wild mother.

PPS. And don’t forget that last year we successfully returned two former captive dolphins, Tom and Misha, to a wild life after many years of captivity in Turkey.

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