Meet Kiska. She resides in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in Canada. A very unusual place to find an ocean mammal. However, since 1979, Kiska has been stuck in captivity. Right now, she desperately needs your help. I guess you might need a bit of background on this poor girl. Well, I can give that to you.
Kiska was captured from the Arctic Ocean around Iceland back in 1979, around the same time infamous orca, Keiko, was. There is even speculation that Kiska and Keiko could be related somehow. No proof is available however. Both were taken to Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Kiska has remained there, but Keiko was sold to a theme park in Mexico, where he would later capture the hearts of children and people all over the globe as the whale who played Willy in Free Willy. Keiko was successfully released and got to live out his days in the ocean, Kiska will never be able to feel that.
She has had 5 calves in the 31 years she’s been imprisoned in captivity. None of them making past the age of 4 1/2, except one. Her first calf was a male, never named died at 2 months old of unknown causes. Her second calf, another male, named Kanuck was 4 1/2 years old and died of Traumatic shock. Nova, another male, was 4 years and 8 months and died of starvation and pneumonia. Hudson, he lasted the longest out of all of Kiska’s calves. He died of meningitis at 6 years, 1 month and 5 days old. Kiska’s only daughter, Athena was 4 1/2 when she died of unknown causes.
At the time of Athena’s death, it was just Kiska and Sea World’s Ikaia, who was on loan for a breeding program. They had hoped that he and Athena would breed when Ike reached maturity, that didn’t happen. The two of them were nothing more than tank mates. So the focus turned to Kiska and Ike. However, no time was given when Sea World came up to check on their bull orca, and had grave concerns for his mental and physical health. They began a lengthy battle with Marineland over their orca. They wanted Ike back to protect him and his well-being. In 2011, Ike would be returned to Sea World in San Diego, and Kiska would be alone.
She has not seen another orca in over 4 years. She hasn’t seen another species of any kind in 4 years. She is 100% alone. People have argued with us that Lolita and Kshamenk are alone too. However, that isn’t the case. Yes, they are without another orca to keep them company, but both live with dolphins in their tanks. They at least have companionship. Kiska, has nothing and no one.
You might be wondering why is she alone? Why isn’t the Canadian government doing anything? Problem is, we have no federal or provincial rules for zoos and aquariums. The Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, is privately run. CAZA claim there is nothing wrong with Marineland, and keep issuing the run-down park with license to run. The OSPCA has guidelines and rules that are not being enforced, and Kiska is being ignored.
OSPCA STANDARDS OF CARE
2. (2)- Every animal must be provided with adequate and appropriate medical attention (Kiska has no teeth and her dorsal fin will soon be non existent if not removed. How long must she endure these health issues until she receives adequate and appropriate care?)
3- Every animal must be provided with the care necessary for its general welfare (keeping a female orca in a tank, alone is simply criminal)
6- Every animal must be provided with adequate and appropriate
(a) space to allow the animal to move naturally and to exercise (orcas naturally swim 100’s of miles per day…..Kiska however swims in repeated circles rimming the edge of a concrete tank. Hardly “natural”)
(b) sanitary conditions (on several occasions we have noticed plastic floating in her tank, filthy bottoms, murky dirty water)
STANDARDS OF CARE FOR CAPTIVE WILDLIFE
2- Wildlife kept in captivity must be provided with a daily routine that facilitates and stimulates natural movement and behaviour. (again, sadly not the case for Kiska)
3- Wildlife kept in captivity MUST BE KEPT IN COMPATIBLE SOCIAL GROUPS to ensure the general welfare of the individual animals and of the group and to ensure that each animal in the group is not at risk of injury or undue stress from dominant animals of the same or a different species.
Kiska’s health is on the decline. She doesn’t have a whole lot of time. Unlike Keiko, Kiska cannot be released back into the wild and sea pens simply do not exists unless you have a millionaire willing to put the money up to build one. Then it takes hundreds-of-thousands of dollars a year to maintain the pen, feed the animal, keep a staff around. It’s just an impossible dream. Kiska doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for a dream to come true for she wouldn’t get to leave that pen. Her teeth are so bad, that she wouldn’t be able to properly hunt or defend herself. Also, we have no idea where her family would be. She is simply stuck.
I am not a supporter of captivity by any means, but the more I’ve seen and learned from experts, I have come to the sad realization that some orcas, cannot achieve freedom. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and take a breath and say, “not every place is horrible.” It’s like eating crow.
Right now, we have no access to Kiska until May when Marineland opens. It’s killing us who are fighting hard for her. We do it because we love her and we want the best for her. Marineland isn’t what’s best for her. She barely gets any social interactions. People would walk up to see her at Friendship Cove, see that she was just lethargically swimming in a circle over and over, or just floating at the surface, and walk away after five minutes. The staff would feed her, and give her a quick rub down, then be done with her. Occasionally, she would get a dirty old tire with some rope and bungee cords wrapped around it to play with. That was it.
Talking to Marine Mammologist, Dr.Naomi Rose, this past summer about Kiska’s health, and she didn’t have anything good to say. There simply wasn’t anything good about Kiska’s health. Kiska is clearly suffering from weight loss, which is clear by the depression just behind her blow-hole. A condition called “peanut head”. Marineland claims that she’s “lazy”. Lazy whales put on extra weight from not doing anything. Kiska is losing it from not doing anything. What is wrong with that picture??
Her dorsal fin, looks mutilated. Like she has had some issues with possible gangrene. There was definite concern over the state of her dorsal fin.
These concerns are very real. When the pictures were exposed to local news station, CHCH in Hamilton, they brushed it off. Taking Marineland’s word over expert opinion and photographic evidence. The one trainer, even admitted on the air, that Marineland doesn’t own a scale to weigh Kiska. Yes he says her weight is just fine. How would he know this? He referred to her as “lazy”. Orca’s are far from lazy animals. Kiska is approximately 40 years old, nearly 10 years younger than Miami Seaquarium’s Lolita. Kiska no longer does shows or even splash sessions, but Lolita who is closing in on 50 years of age, is still performing 2 shows a day. If there is a problem with Kiska being “lazy”, it’s not her it’s the trainers and the way they are handling her.
Orcas are not lazy animals. One of the oldest orcas on record is 103 years old and still swims and leads her family up and down the west coast.
We continue to fight for Kiska, and we will not stop. It is our job to tell her story and hope that anyone who takes the time to listen or read it, passes it on as well. I’ve mentioned a few times that she cannot be released to a sea pen. So what can we do? We need to press the Canadian and Ontario government to take possession of Kiska, and move her to a more appropriate facility. One where she will not be alone anymore, and one where she will receive proper medical care.
Right now, We are seeking 6,966 more signatures on a petition so that we can have it presented to Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynn. So please take the time to sign the petition and share it with all your family and friends. No animal should suffer.
Thank-you so much!
Faithful Team Kiska member!