Even when you are very still, some part of you, like your mind or your heart, is dancing. You dance to music, to life, with a human partner or with the wind.

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An orca calf cries as its taken away from its mother to be sold to a marine park. Think of this sound when you’re standing in underwater viewing feeling like that whale loves you and wants to be around you. Wild orca captures are still very real.

Reblogging for new followers because I feel this is so important.
This is what Corky, Ulises, Kasatka, Katina, Kanduke, Kenau, Tilikum, Lolita, Hugo, Gudrun, Kiska, and all the other wild-caught orcas went through when they were young. It is traumatizing. It is violent. It still happens. And supporting any park that holds these animals captive ensures that it will continue.

It’s just so heartbreaking :(((

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Despite numerous attempts with animals ranging from great apes to poodles, there has only ever been one animal truly taught to read. He was a performing orca named Hyak who lived at the Vancouver Aquarium for nearly 20 years. His lessons in reading comprehension started off as an accident. Dirk McKimmel, the senior trainer at the aquarium, found that the whale would often stop by the underwater viewing window that led into his office as he sat reading. He began to show the maturing 5,000 lb animal the pictures in his books and was quite startled by how interested he seemed to be. Thinking the whale simply enjoyed the novel visual stimulation, he soon took the books up to the pool ledge and began reading out loud as he showed the whale the pictures. This continued for about ten years but no one thought Hyak had any actual comprehension of the book he was being read. 

One day in 1980, a new cetologist at the aquarium began to question what was really going on in these sessions. In a highly controlled study, he began to ask the whale questions about the books. 

On that fateful day, the first thing we did was take Hyak to the smaller side pool in his aquarium, away from his tank mates. He was used to this as we often moved him in order to perform our behavioral experiments, however this time instead of asking him if an image on a screen was round or square as per usual, we asked him if Harold had indeed drawn the moon with his purple crayon. To our great surprise, Hyak distinctly nodded “yes.” We continued on with these studies for several weeks and found that Hyak answered our questions with a 96% accuracy rate on numerous different books McKimmel had been reading him. I decided to take it a step farther, holding books up to Hyak’s window without reading aloud to him. At first it felt a bit silly but soon I noticed when he wanted the page flipped, he would look up and meet my gaze, as though impatient with me. The very next week we attempted to test Hyak’s reading comprehension on this new book he had been reading and discovered he could answer every question about “the Emperor’s New Clothes” perfectly. 

[My Life with Whales- Nicholas Willens, 1995] 

Willen’s 1989 report on Hyak in Animal Cognition was quickly discredited as the idea of a reading whale appeared simply ludicrous. However recent research into the study has found no factual errors and many are arguing the paper should be taken seriously. Mary Kyles, a senior research scientist at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation society was recorded saying "As it has been proven that orcas are highly linguistic and speak in a language of their own, a whale in captivity with little to do but listen to his trainer read books could easily pick up the skill."

This story does not end well for poor Hyak. Defeated, both Willens and McKimmel stopped providing Hyak with reading material and he sadly passed away in 1991. Though he may be gone, his legacy lives on in the important contributions he made to our understanding of the animal mind and just what it is capable of. 

sources: [x] [x] [x]

This is why I love orcas. Their intelligence is just mind blowing.

Dude holy shit


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Since the release of Blackfish, a documentary which chronicled the troubled life of the orca Tilikum (above), in 2013, the percentage of Americans opposed to cetacean captivity has risen to 50% (up 11% from a 2012 poll). SeaWorld’s attendance has dropped 13% in the first quarter of 2014, with earnings down 11%.  The Blackstone Group, which purchased SeaWorld in 2009, reduced their holdings of SeaWorld’s stock to 25%.  The National Aquarium in Baltimore is now considering ending their practice of displaying dolphins and retiring their animals to a sea pen.  The ‘Blackfish effect’ has changed so many lives, but what about its star, Tilikum?

Despite a year of SeaWorld’s costly PR campaigns, YouTube videos and commercials touting their exceptional animal care, Tilikum and the other orcas at SeaWorld’s parks haven’t seen any real improvement in their lives.  Their tanks haven’t been expanded, broken family bonds have not been repaired and Tilikum the deadly 12,000 pound bull orca is still floating like a cork in the dank pool that made him famous.  After a year of protests, reduced turnstile clicks and constant attacks on their social media platforms, SeaWorld still hasn’t gotten the message and Tilikum, the one being whose existence should have been impacted the most by the Blackfish effect, remains untouched by its message.

SeaWorld is never going to volunteer to do the right thing by Tilikum or any of their 28 other whales, it’s up to us to #emptythetanks.

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(via orcalovingbeing)