Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Whales in Captivity

The other day I was searching for dog bite videos on youtube for work purposes. By that I mean I was searching for videos so that I could watch and assess body language and warning cues in the dogs prior to and immediately after bite incidents. It's always good to stay on top of these things and remind yourself of these cues often, especially when working with a large number of dogs, as I do.

Through the miracles of youtube I somehow ended up watching orca whale videos, which reminded me of our trip to Sea World Sand Diego last October.

When my dad asked if we wanted to make a quick run to Sea World on the day I had to catch my plane I was torn and expressed this to him. I said I was uncomfortable with the idea of them keeping orca whales in captivity and wasn't sure I wanted to financially support that practice by attending the park. On the other hand the land locked behaviourist in me wanted to go and judge for myself if the keeping of the whales at the park. There are many species of animal that do quite well and can live quite happily in captivity with proper care and stimulation and so I wanted to see for myself how the whales were kept, and what the park was like before I made my judgement.

Sea World was something, if you don't spend time watching the shows, that can be done in just a few hours. I think we spent maybe 2 or 3 hours there, not much longer. I have to say that there are far better aquariums, however I was thrilled to be able to see some animals I never thought I'd be able to see in my life.

Here are a few pictures from my trip to Sea World, and I will have to start by saying, that though I liked some of the tanks and exhibits, I will on principal probably never return to a park with Orcas in a tank. But more about that later. Let's start with this awesome polar bear:

This polar bear wants that little fish out of the water, but for some reason, he did not want to get wet to get it (I can relate, I don't really like getting wet either) we watched him reach, and tantrum, and contort for several minutes. He did eventually get his fish.

Next up, in the same part of the park was this walrus. This was one of those things that I never in my life thought I would see. It was very exciting and I actually had to do a double take before realizing what it was. Walrus are way bigger than I ever imagined and this huge male was quite intimidating. However watching him made me feel a little sad. Want to know why the picture isn't great? He wouldn't stop moving. His enclosure was far too small and he made frantic stereotypic movements, repeating the same pattern over and over again. He was also alone. Walrus, according to a quick google search (and I thought this was the case when I saw him) are a very social species. His frantic display probably came from social isolation and boredom. Maybe he was pulled from the wild as a rescue, or perhaps taken from another aquarium where he was maybe being bullied by another male, but I can't be sure and there were no signs explaining why he was alone. Walrus I guess aren't all that common in captivity, but I hope that he gets a larger enclosure and a group to live with at some point in time. It was amazing to see him, but it would have been more amazing had he actually seemed content and more in his element.

Moving on, I have to say the penguin enclosure was pretty neat, but the new one at the Calgary zoo is way better. I'll post about that, with some pictures, later. The animals here were standing about in their respective social groups and going for swims in the water, occasionally chasing and displaying at each other.

The sea turtle tank was fascinating and I could have spent hours there watching them. I wish the lighting had been better for pictures, but this was the best I could manage. Sea creatures tend to move a lot, and water sucks light in to make photography from the outside hard. You'll just have to trust me that sea turtles are amazing colours and patterns.

The dolphins seems pretty darn happy. The park had just opened when we arrived and the dolphins were jumping and playing in the water. Their enclosure isn't really set up for viewing, it's more for shows, but even though show time wasn't on they were busy performing their tricks and jumps without the promise of a reward. If I had to judge, and it's hard with mammals that don't have much of a range of facial expressions, the dolphins seemed pretty happy to me. Kind of like really excited puppies, happy to see everyone for the day. But, like I said, my experience isn't with marine mammals. All I can say is that compared to that poor walrus these dolphins seemed pretty stoked.

Now, on to the orcas. They were actually the first animal we visited, as I was anxious to see them as soon as we got to the park. My first impression was that the tank was huge. At first I thought there was only one whale in there. The tank is set up so that it is glass from foot to above the viewer's head, and the tank extends several stories downwards and a little ways up above the viewing area. While watching one visible whale a second startled me when it rose suddenly from just below my feet right by the glass. At that point I was able to conclude that the space they are given is huge but is it really when compared to an ocean? There were at least 5 whales in that tank, and often only one and sometimes none were visible as they swam which means there was enough space in there to get out of sight and stay out of sight as they swam. Still it was hard to judge. 

I suspect this one was trying to eat some of the birds hanging out at the edge of the pool. Visitors have sometimes caught the whales killing birds on camera.

Unlike the dolphins the orcas didn't seem to want to play just to play. They swam and rolled a bit together, but compared to the dolphins, these animals behaved somewhere in between the contented dolphins and the anxious restlessness of the walrus. I would not have defined them as content, that is certain, but they weren't visibly distressed like the walrus was. However there was an air of restlessness to them that I could not shake.

It is hard to tell with an orca, how it is feeling, at least from a layman's point of view. But I think the conclusion I must be lead to is that, while captive bred whales cannot be returned to the wild, they should stop the breeding of whales in captivity. Someday, at least in north America, Sea World might, and only then would I go back. I would encourage everyone until they do, to go on a whale watching tour instead. It costs about the same as admission to the park, and whales in the wild are so neat to see. I have been lucky enough to happen to be on a boat when orcas came through the gulf islands near vancouver island a week early one spring and it was an amazing sight. While I understand the value of captive breeding programs in preserving at risk species, I'd say the currently existing breeding programs are not designed in the interest of conservation.

I'll also note, that orca whales have been known to turn on their trainers. Some whales have been responsible for multiple trainer deaths. They are extremely intelligent animals, and they are also predators. They get frustrated and when they do it can be dangerous. Tillicum, a whale caught in the wild in Iceland, has killed three trainers, and continues to be used in shows. Below is a video I found on youtube of an attack on a trainer by a different whale in Sea World Philippines. The trainer survived uninjured, but it must have been a terrifying and should have been a very telling moment. These animals aren't pets. Training of the current whales in captivity needs to be continued to keep them stimulated and prevent boredom like that poor walrus experienced, but it's time to end captive breeding. We know they're smart, and now that we know, we should respect them a little more.

Here is another video that shows whales in the wild.

My dad had a great idea for what to do with that great huge tank that they currently have for the whales. He thinks they should make an arctic community tank with seals, walrus (so he won't be so lonely and in such a small space!) and beluga. The enclosure is certainly big enough! And a community tank resembling as much as possible their natural habitat and relationships with each other would be absolutely amazing to see and would be great for the animals. It has been great for the gorillas at the Calgary zoo to have the Colobus monkeys in with them, giving the silver back something to do, I think it would be great if they could find a way to make it work for the arctic marine mammals as well. The polar bear should probably keep his own place though, or they'll run out of seals.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Don't fence me in!

Or in this case, don't box me in.

So, the parking lot outside the shop is a little difficult. There are no lines to divide spaces and parking is so limited with all the other shops being viciously territorial about their spaces that people sort of just squeeze in where ever they fit. We also get a lot of people using the parking lot who do not think about others when they park, they'll park sideways, or extremely close to neighbouring cars, or they'll leave their ass end sticking out into the driving part of the lot so that you have to squeeze between them and the parked cars on the street or the lamp post.

After a couple of months of watching car doors bash into my car and cringing as I just barely scraped past the cars parked next to be as I backed out of my spot in the evening, and then fighting to get onto the street during rush hour while competing with blocked sight lines from the cars parked along the street I finally decided to park on the street myself. It's one of the few situation where I thought my car would be safer on the busy street than in the parking lot.

Except now there is this new problem. Now that I'm parking on the street people who show up later in the day (I'm always the first one here. The joys of being the only business on the block open for hours in the morning) will pull right smack up against my bumper in the rear and reverse right against my bumper in the front. The people in the rear are trying to keep the driveway clear and are pulling into a space that is too short for them and the people in the front are giving themselves plenty of room to pull forward and out with no consideration to the fact that I can't pull forward and out now.

The other day I hopped into my car and then realized I was almost completely unable to move. I could get out, sure, but it took a lot of back and forth and steering and back and forth. Generally this would be an annoyance, but not a huge problem, except for the fact that at the hour I am going home this road is very very busy, which means slowly working your nose out into traffic isn't a super awesome idea and it's also really frustrating to miss gap after gap in traffic because pulling out now, or too quickly, might result in ripping smashing headlights while ripping the bumper off the car parked in front.

So two days in a row now I have parked in front of my shop, on the street, so that there is less than two metres from my back bumper to the driveway. The driveways are tricking and hard to get in and out of as well, so I try to take up enough room to defend my space so I can back up and pull onto the street when I leave, but not so much room that I make it hard for people to get in and out of the driveway and risk my car while they do so. And for two days now I have peeked out the front window to discover, despite the still very empty street parking and parking lot in the earlier hours of the morning, that someone thinks they're driving a smart car and has wedged their car tight up against my back bumper while taking up a third of the driveway with their ass end.

If I move back a bit they'll probably just block the whole driveway, but maybe they'd get towed for that...

Funny/awful thing is, now that I have stopped using one of my two parking spaces no one uses either of them. It's like they think you're not allowed to park there any more.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Because it's different for us

I found this today. I think that it's one of those things that I feel good about sharing. There is a lot of truth to it. Women have so much to be concious of in the world of rape culture, manuals for men help them learn to be concious of it too so that perhaps, someday, it can change. Here's the post

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Finally! Soup!

Today seems like a fantastic day to talk about soup. It's been raining on and off and it's been grey all day and I can almost smell it, from 15 kilometres and 7 hours away from dinner time, the suspicion of soup for dinner is in the air. So, while I take advantage of nap time here at the dog daycare and wait for my lunch to be delivered (treating myself to something that isn't soup, thanks) I'm going to talk about soup.

I don't like soup.

It is ok in some forms, I suppose. I like chicken soup sometimes, but really only with extra noodles and actual chicken chopped up and put in, and then perhaps if you drain off the broth... oh wait... huh.

Ok, well, how about soup as a side dish? Maybe if it's wonton soup coming with the Chinese Canadian* take-out food, and I get to pick all the wontons out and leave the broth behind...oh... I did it again didn't I?

At this point you're saying, "Monika, you just don't like BROTH" that actually is not entirely true! I like some broth! In fact I like all the broth mentioned above, again, so long as it has been separated from the rest of the soup and is therefore just broth, in a mug preferably, and not intended to be a meal.

The combination of broth, and stuff in broth, veggies, wontons, dumplings, chicken and so on (here on known simply as "inclusions") is actually kind of gross to me. I can usually manage to eat just enough to be polite and then wait for the main course to come, except when we are presented with the all too common problem of there not actually being a main course, just soup. Unsatisfying, brothy, mushy inclusions soup. And sometimes, it smells bad. And sometimes it smells good but tastes bad and is horribly misleading and unfair in that sense.

Soup is not a meal. I need some substance to my food. Some crunch. some variety so I can eat my veggies over here and my meat over here and understand that they are separate parts to a greater whole! Food for the eyes and the tongue just as much as it is for the stomach. Food for the brain, where I get to make decisions of what to mix in my mouth and when. A mouthful of mashed potatoes, a bit of meat, then slide in for the combo of some mashed potatoes ON a bit of meat, mixed on my terms to my ratios and not plopped in a cup of water to soak first. Makes you think about your food, manipulate your food, I bet the strong presence of soup in old people homes (I assume they make them eat soup all the time and that just adds to the horror of the places. We'll discuss my irrational fear of the elderly in the future, today it's about my beef with soup. Get it? Food pun) is a contributing factor to a decline in brain and memory function. You don't have to think about soup. It sits there, in a bowl, all mushed up and boiled together and you have one utensil, and that's it. Serious lack of stimulation there. Maybe it's really pretty soup with a bit of garnish, and that might brighten your day, until you stick a spoon in it drowning the garnish.

I come from a family of soup lover's, unfortunately.

"Black sheep! Black sheep! You non-conformist you!"

I'll have the salad.

* I am suddenly unsure if that should be "Chinese Canadian food" or "Canadian Chinese food" ? The first implies that I am referring to the food of a Chinese Canadian, the other that I am talking about Chinese food made in Canada. The second could be considered more accurate, since I'm sure not all the restaurants have Chinese Canadian cooks but I am not sure which is considered the appropriately politically correct and fair use of the language. Gosh.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sleepover what?

I was going to write a new blog post. It was either going to have pictures of penguins, or it was going to be a rant about how much I hate soup.

But I got distracted by my stats again.

Someone found my blog by googling "sleepover feet"

I was so baffled by this one that I had to google sleepover feet and I must say... that is a world I didn't want to enter. I'd like to go back to thinking about soup.

Anyway. If you took some bad advice and read about the guy on facebook who smells other people's feet at sleepovers then here, have a picture of an Orca. It will either cheer you up or further depress you, I guess that depends on whether or not you think he looks happy. Someday I'll have something to say about Orcas.

Edit to add: Apparently I already had something to say about Orcas. There is a post entitled "Whales in captivity" in my drafts. I'll publish it soon, with more pictures and probably something about a sad walrus. Man, all this over soup.

I hate soup.


Monday, May 14, 2012

New thing!

I found this thing that probably isn't new, but it's new to me. There is this place on my settings where I can see what google searches lead people to my blog. I'm going to take my favourites and post them for everyone to see.

Today's favourite google search by a random reader that lead them to my blog is

"castlegar is a shithole"


Anyway. That would have lead him to this post  in which I mention both "Castlegar" and "shithole" but not in the same sentence.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011