Corky’s saddest day

Corky's rainbow P1050551

In 1990, which seems now such a long time ago, the world celebrated the release of Nelson Mandela from his 27 years of incarceration. We marveled at the man and his ability to survive, adjust, reconcile and go on. We thought of Corky and wondered if she were to be let go free, would she be successful too? Nelson Mandela’s story gave us confidence. At that time Corky’s mother, her strongest connection to her past life was still alive; Corky also had siblings she had never met. Back then so much was being learned about orcas in the wild, their wonderfully complicated individual and social needs, their amazing physical and acoustic abilities, their impressive natural ranges. All of which contrasted starkly with the stifling life of captivity. So we plotted. We tried to do whatever we could to bring the world’s attention to Corky’s plight. There were petitions, demonstrations, the creation of a wonderful 2½ kilometer banner made by people from around the world, there were news stories and songs made in Corky’s honour. We even fantasized about asking Nelson Mandela to make a plea on her behalf. We never did, and all the great efforts by so many failed to wrench Corky free.

An incredible 44 years after her capture and confinement Corky is still swimming in circles, marking time. However, in Corky’s wake attitudes to captivity have been shifting. Take Keiko, the star of Free Willy, who was let go because a demanding public saw the injustice of the entertainment industry making millions while he continued to languish in captivity. His journey back home was unprecedented. Take the orphaned baby orca Springer and the efforts made to return her to her home waters and community. The alternative of placing her in captivity was simply not palatable to an educated public who demanded the experts come up with a better plan. Ten years later, Springer has her own baby. Take “Blackfish”, the recent documentary that exposed, as never before, the dismal story behind the glitz of SeaWorld.

A life in the wild has remained a distant dream for Corky that now presents added urgency as she grows older. However, unfolding events in the world beyond her tank make us believe it is still possible. As a business, Sea World’s lights have dimmed in the wake of Blackfish and savvy commentators are noticing. SeaWorld’s now publicly traded stock is drifting down; musicians like Bare Naked Ladies and Willie Nelson are refusing to perform at SeaWorld; and an awakening public is showing signs of preferring rides to animal abuse as holiday entertainment. All these contribute to the feeling we retain today. Like Nelson Mandela’s dear friend Archbishop Tutu, we are “prisoners of hope”.

Please join us. Light a candle for Corky today.

by Helena Symonds & Paul Spong

December 11 2013

Thanks to Lori Freiburger for her rainbow Corky photo!

Links to Corky stories:

4 Responses to “Corky’s saddest day”
  1. I cried I watched the you tubes. I felt the pain and joy all at once? candle is lit . novena started for all the Orcas and Dolphins in captivity. for the Dolphin Project for Taiji I am here for the voice and the suffering and I vow to keep it up.Thank you for all your work. blessings

  2. Virginia says:

    The thought of another losing so many babies is heart breaking. I have children, and I couldn’t imagine having them, and then not having them. The part that is saddest for me is that Corky herself had no one to teach her how to be a mother. So many of the females in captivity have no idea what a true orca family is. Throwing together orcas from different regions and family groups, who don’t speak each other’s languages seems so illogical to me. Not to mention the inbred orcas who are born in captivity, who have no one to teach them what it means to be pregnant, or be a mother, or even what is happening during labor and delivery. I feel so strongly about animals in captivity, especially orcas. The list of reasons why I am opposed to orcas in captivity is too long. Unfortunately for the 50 or so in captivity now freedom most likely isn’t an option. What we can focus on is stopping breeding in captivity, and preventing the capture of wild orcas. So that no further generations will know what imprisonment feels like.

  3. Ashley Barron says:

    I can’t think of the right words to say how sad it makes me that corky is living in some giant cement pool somewhere ….and for what???? I have lost a lot of faith in humans for their huge lack of empathy and compassion for the animals we share this earth with. I see so many similarities in orca pods and our family’s – it just breaks my heart the thought of a baby being tAken from its mother when in nature that would never happen – when those baby orcas are taken away and the mom is left in that cement pool helpless of saving her baby if you see that mothers reaction how could you not know how wrong that is? My heart goes out to corky – when are humans going to realize these creatures just like us feel pain, saddenes, lonleyness – I want a better life for corky and all imprisoned orca’s they didn’t do anything to deserve this from humans – they’re such magnificent creatures go view them in the wild it’s awe inspiring and we don’t have to kill a whales spirit in the process like sea world does over & over !

  4. Charlene Clark says:

    Thank you for all your wonderful work towards making a better future for Corky and all Orca. I live on the Sunshine Coast and found out one day that the people i was working for had caught Corky and several other Orca in Pender Harbour. I had thought they told me it was in December of 1969, which is when i was born. I have often thought of how terribly diminished Corky’s life has become, and how she must suffer being imprisoned for soooo long…my entire life actually. I have rooted for Corky’s release, but always knew they would never let her go, she is too special. The Legend on the Coast is that Corky’s Family come to Pender Harbour every winter looking for her. When i read Alexandra Mortons book, Listening to Whales, i learned how truly awful Corkys life is. And I know the wild, beautiful and pristine Seas she was born into, and what she is missing. I will light a candle for her every day.

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