December 11 2002 marks the 33rd anniversary of the sad winter night Corky’s family entered Pender Harbour in British Columbia amidst a howling storm – perhaps the family was seeking shelter, perhaps they were seeking the 7 members who had gone missing in the same place the year before, or perhaps their entry was simply a random event. Whatever the explanation, this was the last day of freedom for Corky and 5 others, of whom Corky is the sole survivor these many years later. Although only a remnant of what it was before the captures, the pod still had four adult females who continued their lives in the ocean. Eventually, they and their offspring brought renewed hope to the pod. The survival of Corky’s mother Stripe (A23) in the wild for many years brought Corky the prospect of returning to her closest kin, but tragically, she died in 2000 leaving Corky with siblings she has never known and even larger questions regarding the basic question that lies at the centre of our quest for Corky – if she is given the chance, can Corky survive in the ocean and make a new life there? Corky’s “owners” claim she would die in the ocean, that she would never acquire hunting skills and social ties vital to survival. It is impossible to answer this fear completely, but recent experiences with Keiko and Springer have opened windows into what may happen if Corky is given the chance she deserves. Keiko swam on his own across the Atlantic Ocean from Iceland to Norway and learned how to fend for himself. His remaining problems relate solely to the social side of his life – whether he can solve them we do not yet know, but we do know his life is already profoundly richer and more satisfying than the bleak existence he faced within concrete walls. Springer was never captive in the same sense as Keiko or Corky, but she was alone and far from home at an age so tender as make her survival extremely problematic. The story of Springer’s successful return to her home and family captivated the world and made believers out of the most entrenched sceptics… it was in the end accomplished with such ease that a fairy tale aura surrounded events as they unfolded. Corky’s situation in the ocean will lie somewhere between Keiko’s and Springer’s – she will be close to her kin but she will also carry the baggage of all the years she has been among people. Having observed the active roles played by other orcas in Springer’s social reintegration, our faith is stronger than ever that Corky and the other orcas will solve the problems she will face… IF she is given the chance.
As you go about your lives this day, please think about Corky… and please join us in believing with all our hearts that one day she WILL be free!
Paul Spong & Helena Symonds