Corky has earned her retirement – December 10th 2005

Sunday, December 11, 2005, is the 36th anniversary of Corky’s capture in British Columbia, Canada. She is the longest surviving captive orca in the world. First at Marineland of the Pacific, and since 1987 at Sea World in San Diego, Corky’s life in captivity has been a story of survival and heartbreak. She has been pregnant six times, but none of her babies survived; Corky’s longest-lived baby died after just 46 days. In 1989, another female orca named Kandu attacked Corky during a show, breaking her jaw against Corky’s body, and bleeding to death. Corky’s life since has seen her performing thousands of shows as “Shamu”, and endlessly circling her tank, round and round and round. Now 40 years old, Corky is approaching the 50 year average longevity of orcas in the wild. Corky’s will to live is strong, but even so, chances are she will die within the next decade.

Corky has done so much for Sea World, for so long, that it is only fair that Sea World should now do something for Corky, and allow her to spend her last days “retired” in the ocean, her old home.


Can Corky survive in the ocean? Yes, with a careful plan that begins with a complete physical exam. As long as Corky has no parasites or diseases that could endanger wild whales, she can be carefully moved, using Sea World’s expertise in transporting orcas, to a “retirement home”. This would be an ocean pen facility constructed in her home waters of British Columbia, in an area Corky’s family (the “A5” pod) visits often. There, she would have opportunities to communicate with her family again using the unique “A5” pod dialect she learned from her mother. A full time staff would care for Corky, under the supervision of veterinarians and scientists. Sea World could continue to have access via a live video/audio link, ensuring that people who have come to love Corky in her tank can continue to follow her life story to its natural conclusion.

It is possible that Corky could re-learn the survival skills needed for life in the wild, but at least in the first instance, there would be no intention to release Corky. What is envisioned for her is a well-deserved retirement from a very demanding life, and the gift of ending her days in her home waters.

Imagine for a moment, how Corky will feel when her body is surrounded by ocean water once more, and when she hears for the first time in nearly 4 decades, the rich and subtle soundscape of the ocean: shrimp, crabs, fish, seals & sea lions… and one day, the sounds of other orcas calling in the distance.

Sea World owes Corky, big time. It’s time for Corky to receive her just reward.

Light a candle for Corky today, and hold her in your heart.

Michael Reppy

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