Corky Today

Corky has survived at Sea World for 25 years. Her physical condition has fluctuated over the time she has been there. At one point Sea World listed her condition as “poor”, perhaps because her kidneys were not functioning well. She stopped ovulating long ago, her teeth are worn, and she is almost blind in one eye. Sea World considers Corky “old” and tells visitors that orca whales only live to about 35 years. They used to say 30 years. For a while, Sea World decreased the number of shows Corky performed, but for many years she has been doing a full schedule. When she is not performing, Corky is held in one of the back tanks with some of Sea World’s eight other orcas. Mostly she passes time by circling her tank. She has found some companionship from the younger whales in the Sea World tanks, including Orkid (Orky’s daughter, now 23 and without offspring despite attempts at artificial insemination) and Nakai, a male who who born in 2001. In April 2001, Bjossa, an Icelandic female orca, was added to Sea World’s San Diego “collection”. Bjossa had previously been held captive at the aquarium in Vancouver, B.C., where her companion for many years was Corky’s cousin Hyak. Bjossa knew the calls of the A5 pod, and used them as well as her native Icelandic dialect. Corky and Bjossa had a common bond in Hyak, but it did not last long, as Bjossa died just 6 months after arriving at Sea World. As the years pass, Corky’s life continues much the same, day by day – around and around and around.

Back in the wild, Corky’s family carries on. The A5 pod originally had 18 members but the 7 who were removed in the 1968 capture all died and one entire matriline was lost. Of the six taken in 1969 only Corky survives. Slowly over the years, as their fortunes waxed and waned, the complexion of the wild pod has changed. At present (January 2012) there are 11 members, which is about the same as in 1969, but the pod now has just two functional matrilines, a sharp contrast to the 5 matrilines of pre-capture days. The death of A26 (Foster) in 2000 brought the “A9” matriline to an end, and the 2011 death of Corky’s cousin Nodales (A51) virtually ended the “A14” matriline. Nodales’ brother, Fife (A61) has been traveling with the A8 matriline and Nodales’ son, Codero (A85) with the A23 matriine, Corky’s original group. Despite the losses, the pod appears strong, and its members still love to hunt big Spring salmon when they travel the waters of Johnstone Strait, Blackfish Sound and the rest of the Inside Passage. But they have never been seen near Pender Harbour again.

The time left for Corky to reconnect with her family is disappearing. She has already survived longer than any other captive orca. This tells us that Corky is an incredibly strong individual… but no one, no matter how strong, can last forever.

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