How many of you have been to seaworld? I know I have, and at the time, I found all the tricks, from high fives to flips, super exciting and fun. But have you ever realized that wild animals aren’t meant to do tricks and entertain us.
I recently watched a widely circulated video of an orca playing fetch with a few fisherman out on the ocean. Sounds okay, right? After all, The animals are out in the wild and they aren’t being held in captivity. Well, that’s what I thought too until I read the descriptions of two different, yet connected stories. In one story, there were nearly 100 beluga whales which were held by four Russian firms that supply marine animals to aquariums, with 15 of them likely babies who hadn’t even been weaned off their mother’s milk before being captured. After global outcry, the Russian authorities released the whales back into the wild. In another instance, an orca whale named Hvaldimir was first found with a harness labeled “equipment of St. Petersburg” in northern Norway, leading to speculation that he may have been used and trained by the Russian navy. Although locals of Norway were instantly charmed by the adorable whale, it was heartbreaking to see him follow a sailboat throughout is entire 5 hour cruise because he was used to human company.
As you can tell, because Hvaldimir has spent so much time in captivity, he seems unable to adapt to living in the wild, not knowing how to take care of himself. Humans near his location feed him, but he still suffers from loneliness because he isn’t able to keep up with and understand the other wild orcas. Imagine if you had no friends because someone else purposely did something to prevent you from making them. Great tragedies happen to humans when they have no one to interact with; similar things must happen to other animals. To make up for his loneliness, Hvaldimir gravitates towards humans whenever he sees them because they are the only company he has known for most of his life. Since his release, Hvaldimir has appeared in a variety of Northern harbors, several viral videos, and lots of news reports. He has also pulled a divers knife from its scabbard and returned an iPhone to a women who dropped it. His human like adaptations seem cool at first, but the sad reality is that due to the concept of animal captivity, zoos, and any other sort of cruel entertainment, whales like him will live in isolation and will be outcasts for the rest of their lives.
However, Hvaldimir got lucky. Several Norwegian companies have collaborated to initiate a feeding program and to temporarily monitor his well being. Not only have animal protection agencies helped Hvaldimir and other captive sea creatures adapt back into the wild, the local community has been incredibly supportive and eager to help, through logistical and financial sources as well as through following a code of conduct, which further restricted access to the docks, instantly allowing the whale to spend more time exploring his natural surroundings.
After only a few weeks of effort, Hvaldimir put on weight, had higher levels of energy, became more active, and was possibly developing hunting skills. Educational feeding sessions occur daily to the general public to raise awareness about the issue and to help protect Hvaldimir.
Although Hvaldimir ended up getting the care and support he deserved, not all wild
animals, especially ones taken advantage of by human beings, are so lucky. Next time, whenever you think about going somewhere or participating in an activity which promotes animal cruelty, instead, try to do something else fun or find an animal sanctuary to help animals and interact with them in a natural way; help them live happier lives, not ones that you imagine would be unbearable.
Link to the foundation: https://www.hvaldimir-foundation.com/