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The Life Of Kiska

October 18, 2012

I’m developing an iron law of marine park reporting, which is: the more detail you know the worse marine parks sound. Rarely do additional facts make you feel better about marine parks.

This law just received serious reinforcement by a devastating report in Canada’s The Star newspaper about the life of Kiska, the lone remaining killer whale at Marineland in Ontario.

Marineland has been in the news recently, over animal abuse allegations by former staffers. This new report does nothing to change the dismal picture of Marineland they painted.

Here’s what The Star reports on Kiska:

Kiska, the killer whale, swims alone in her pool at Marineland, often followed by a trail of her own blood.

Her tail has been bleeding off and on since July but has been getting progressively worse, according to Christine Santos, who has been one of Kiska’s primary trainers. She described the bleeding as “gushing” last week….


The Star obtained recent video of Kiska showing a blood trail from cuts in her tail. Once one of Marineland’s best show animals, Santos said she now spends her days swimming listlessly and scratching parts of her body against the sides and sharp fibreglass grates that run the circumference of her Friendship Cove pool.

Treating her is difficult because Kiska, about 37, has refused to go into the medical pool for the past month. Her behaviour has been “breaking down for some time,” said Santos. She won’t even present her tail for blood samples.

Santos believes there aren’t enough trainers to give Kiska and 39 beluga whales enough attention at Friendship and Arctic Coves.

Santos was fired Wednesday. She said she was asked to sign a document that included a statement she’d never seen animal abuse at Marineland. She didn’t sign because “it didn’t feel right.”

Marineland called Santos’ allegations inaccurate and false. Here’s a photo of Kiska, trailing blood, published by The Star (click image for full size).

The Star story also has some pretty gruesome details about a beluga transfer that went wrong:

Other whales have been bloodied at the Niagara Falls tourist park. On Apr. 11, 2012, after female beluga Charmin was left on a trailer when a crane jammed during a move to another pool, photos show the area soaked with blood…


Last April, staffers moved two belugas, Tofino, a male, and Charmin from Friendship Cove to the performing stadium pool. At the end of Charmin’s move, the crane set to lift her in a sling over to the pool jammed, and she was stuck on the flatbed, her tail thrashing against the metal slats and edges of the trailer, according to former senior trainer Phil Demers.

“It was one of the worst days of my life,” says Demers, who helped in the move. “It went on for at least an hour. . . . There was blood on Charmin, on the ground, on the side of the pool, on the pads — it was sprayed all over. The worst, though, was that she lay there all that time with the pressure of her heavy weight (about 1,350 kilograms) on her internal organs — so bad.”

Here’s a photo of Charmin’s bloody transfer (full set is here). Is it something that  NOAA and the rest of us should keep in mind when considering what sort of stresses could be involved in Georgia Aquarium’s proposed transfer of 18 belugas from northern Russia to Atlanta, and then on to SeaWorld, Shedd Aquarium, and Mystic Aquarium?

Beluga Charmin

All the staffer accounts that have been leaking out of Marineland this summer certainly paint Marineland as a poorly managed park where animals suffer daily (video here).

It’s possible that Marineland is, in fact, the worst park in North America. But who knows for sure? How much do we really know about all the other marine parks? It is not until insiders step forward and put the facts out in the light, or the parks open up to real scrutiny, that we can really know the reality.

(h/t to JF for alerting me to this story)

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 18, 2012 8:10 am

    is there a way to send these pictures and footage to those who must decide about the 18 belugas import?

  2. October 19, 2012 12:16 am

    Marineland is not the worst, I’m sure the Miami Seaquarium wins that prize by a saddening landslide.

  3. October 19, 2012 12:19 am

    I don’t think Marineland merits the prize of worst park in North America, the Miami Seaquarium wins that horrifying prize. Look up Lolita the orca, she has been alone for much, much, much longer than Kiska in much worse conditions.

    • Andrew Randrianasulu permalink
      October 20, 2012 11:24 pm

      I think all those “parks” have very dark side. May be someone from Miami will step up and speak … I’m hoping for chain reaction, when hidden reality suddenly surfaces once and forever. Then people need to realize how incompatible words “care” and “captivity” – how, in fact, captivity adds completely new layer of dangers, unknown/impossible in the wild, and how business-oriented nature of those “parks” only adds more problems, at best de-focusing staff from animals to some fake illusion of “living together with whales”. Then people need to push their new vision forward, until there will be no captivity, and way to bring it back. Humans also need to realize they deal with most powerful intelligence – you can literally talk to them, and have meaningful answers. No need to confine them like poor fish on fish farm. They are top predators, but this doesn’t mean they can’t think. If even dogs can do it (limited version of two-way communication – where non-human can actually ask for things and actions, just like all other human being around) – why whales can’t?
      ——————— – <> – this is what exactly Ken hoped to use for dolphins and other cetaceans!


      Where ‘Ken’ is ….. <— this one.

      there also was Orcinus, who has slightly different variant of very same idea – basically, stop pretending cetaceans (including, but not limited to pilot whales, beluga whales, killer whales, various dolphins) as Just Another Dumb Animal – moreover, there is no such things as Dumb Animal, this is human fantasy. Read Marc's blog for example … i hope one can also read his books, or books/films about various wild dolphin encounters – for me, there is doubt they need to be seen as persons, not as “things” to manipulate! This mean even if we want to rescue them – we should change our image of them. They have, like all of us, very biological needs, and body vulnerable to various dangers. But they also have mind/soul/spirit/self-awareness. This mean we should stop to think about them as some passive elements of Nature, who have only simplest reactions. They have very rich inner world – and saving this world, alongside with their body, and their ability to give life to new – free! – generation of beings should be our goal. Ending captivity shouldn’t be about “get rid of whales/dolphins” – it should be about giving them back their natural world – as rich as it is. Without restrictions. This never should be crime to help those who actually need help – yet, everyone should be aware about dangers of commercial and even non-commercial exploitation. All this was well-said years ago – see for example (opps, website changed its layout): For cetaceans, due to their aquatic nature, relatively slow breeding rates AND ability to form strong bonds with humans WITHOUT any food “reward” whole concept can be a bit different – you don’t even need “enclosures”. You also don’t need all this over-used “operant conditioning” – just be accurate and honest about your interactions, explain yourself (our way of communication – be it artificial middle-language, or something more exotic, yet _practical_) to them with patience, don’t be greedy, don’t use them as trash-bin for dead fish, learn how to love ocean and share this love with them – and things will be much better! Without all this show-buzz, walls, extremely limited space … best way to ‘transport’ whale – allow him/her to swim on his/her own! of course, initially you have to move them out of tanks, but after this …swim free, dive free, and in case of trouble just call some known humans! This is NOT how mainstream orgs see it – yet, all this backed up by real-world examples …..

  4. Andrew Randrianasulu permalink
    October 20, 2012 11:36 pm

    ooops … <> sorry.

  5. Andrew Randrianasulu permalink
    October 20, 2012 11:37 pm

    😦 I mean to correct myself, but blog ate my words! let’s be more conservative: ” for me, there is NO doubt they need to be seen as persons, not as “things” to manipulate! “

  6. January 10, 2013 12:03 am

    I contemplate why you branded this specific article, “The Life
    Of Kiska Tim Zimmermann”. In any case
    I personally loved the blog!Thank you-Iona


  1. Orcas in Captivity | SjOrcaLover

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