RIP Freya

Sad news in the world of captivity, Freya, the oldest orca in Marineland France, passed away today. According to the park, the orca had been ill for some time (but let’s all be reassured, apparently, she did not suffer thanks to all the care from the veterinary team) and an autopsy will be carried out to figure out the causes of death. Let’s hope the results of that autopsy will be published.

A little background story:
Freya was born in Iceland. In October 1982, she was captured at approximately 1 year old. Since 1982, the female orca lived in a tank of 10 million gallons of water in a warm southern weather (so, very different from the one she was supposed to live in).

The tank in Marineland France (red circle) is the biggest tank in the world. It seems rather ridiculously and cruelly small compared to the Mediterranean Sea we can see next to it.

The poor orca had her first miscarriage in 1991 and a second one in 1993 (so at about 10 and 12 years old when we know that female orcas start procreating at 15 years old.) In 1996, on February 14th, on Valentine’s Day, she gave birth to a male baptized Valentin. In March 2001, she had another miscarriage and then again in April 2003.

The orca was easy to recognize thanks to a white stain or her left flank, scar of a tumor healed by X-Ray in 1995.

On September 2008, an amateur video shows the orca attacking her trainer during a show:

Yet, following the scandal over Blackfish, Marineland defended itself saying such behaviors were never seen inside the park.
Bernard Giampaolo, Head Director of Marineland said “you will never find a declared accident within the park where an orca is involved.” Are we supposed to conclude that the park staff and representatives are not reporting every accident? Are we supposed to conclude some accidents are in fact hidden?
Because we know for a fact that her son, Valentin, attacked his trainer in July 2008. Wikie, another female orca, pushed and tried to drown her trainer on the 17th of July 2009.
These are recent events. The park cannot hide behind the argument that they lacked experience at the begininng.

One year of freedom, almost 33 in captivity. Aged around 33-34 years old, Freya was far from the average lifespan of wild orcas. Indeed, wild female orcas can live up to 70 to 80 years old.
The very famous female orca named Granny is estimated to be 103 years old by whale researchers of BC and Vancouver. Not half of what Freya lived.

The park comforts itself thinking of recent births inside the park which are signs for good care. As if “being born in captivity” was suddenly OKAY!
Freya was the last orca to have been born in the wild. All the remaining orcas at Marineland France were born in captivity.

The question I now ask myself is what is going to happen in the orca tank in the next few weeks? Without their eldest, these orcas who live in matriarchal societies are going to need to find new bearings.
Are changes in behavior going to happen?

What will occur during the demonstration happening on July 12th at Marineland? The park will have a hard time defending itself against anticaps…

To be continued…

Et mon propre cahier de recherches / And my own research book

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