Thursday, July 31, 2008

Save Shouka

There we were- the four of us at Marine World. We’d gone on the Thomas the Train kiddie rides, and our next stop was to see the show starring Shouka the whale.

My husband got lunch, and we sat there while they entertained us with environmental trivia and advertisements. The male announcer was handsome in his polo shirt. The female trainers were cute and energetic in their wet suits. The music pounded.

And then Shouka came out. She is 13 years old and 16 feet long. She weighs in at a slim 4,000 pounds. She was wearing what’s “in” right now- black and white.

She did one swim around the stadium, and then went back to her private area in the back. Finally she emerged again and did what they wanted her to- waving to the crowd with her fin, splashing an unsuspecting visitor with her tale, and jumping high to reach the suspended balls.

All of a sudden I found myself crying. It totally took me by surprise. I hadn’t gone in there thinking, “Oh these poor animals…” I had been looking forward to seeing a beautiful whale. But seeing her do these forced human actions and realizing how small the aquarium is versus the ocean, I just felt so sad. I imagined being confined to a small area for my whole life. The feeling was suffocating.

The sadness seemed to have a life of its own. I wasn’t thinking about the whale, I was feeling. I held my two year old close to me as I donned my sunglasses. I wanted to run away, but I didn’t. Everyone else seemed to be happy and clapping to the nauseating music.

My husband later asked why I’d been sad. I told him I felt bad for the whale being cooped up and having to do these stupid tricks. “You aren’t going vegan are you?” he asked.

It was a fair question, but no, I’m not going vegan.

I want to believe that these animals are ombudsmen, teaching children and adults to care for the earth and its inhabitants and therefore their captivity is worth it. Or that if they are not born in wild they don’t know what they’re missing.

But I don’t buy it.


jeffreyswindows said...

I aggree. Shouka is in a rather small tank, with three smaller chambers. That is not much space to be in 24/7/365 - where one can't from get out!!! I was there with family on August 29, and 31 of 2006, and I have pondered over the same thing since.

Anonymous said...

I work at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (Rides Dept.) and I thank God to have the possibility to see dolphins and a whale every single day... But yes, the tank is small, the show is SO BORING and every time I see Shouka swimming alone I get so sad for her. She doesnt know what an ocean is but anyways, must be sad to live in a that place for your entire life. There is a truth... California is the strictest state of the US about animals in captivity... so the tank is big enough despite what we all think.
I hope one day the wont be any more Shoukas and Merlins.

Kristy Lund said...

Thank you both for your comments, I appreciate hearing about your experiences!

Shannon Ludlow said...

The EXACT thing happened to me last week. I was with my children and husband watching Shouka and began crying in the splash zone area. I haven't stopped thinking about her since. I also can't help but wonder if the constant sound of the rollercoasters echo in her itty bitty tank. Their ears are their most sensitive sense and I would not be surprised if it bothers her.

Anonymous said...

I worked at Discovery Kingdom also, I was there when the park got shouka. (Shows Dept). They educated us alot about her. She was born in captivity. Thats all she knows. If released in the wild she would die because she doesn't know how to rely on herself. Also they didnt make her do the show. She chose to. Trust me there has been many shows where she didnt want to do it and we had to close the stadium. Lastly her tank is bigger than the one she came from, but i do agree it is still small. Also last time i checked they put a dolphin in the tank with her.