December 11, 2016
Corky’s saddest day number 47
It’s hard to know what it actually means for her, but today, December 11th 2016 marks the 47th anniversary of Corky’s capture. Separated from her family, and surrounded by concrete walls that totally exclude the sounds of the ocean, for nearly 5 decades she has been deprived of the two most important aspects of life for an orca. Unreal. At one level, the fact that Corky has survived is a testament to her inner strength; at another, the fact that she is still alive gives her a chance, and keeps our dream for her alive too.
When Nelson Mandela emerged whole from prison after 27 long years, and led his country to freedom, he proved that it is possible for someone who has been incarcerated and away from home and family for a very long time to return to a full life. I thought at the time that he also proved the case for Corky; that it would be possible for her to rejoin her family and return to a full life in the ocean with them. At that time Corky was 25 years old, and given normal circumstances for a female orca, in the prime of her life. She had been captive for 21 years, and her mother was still alive. To me it was almost a no brainer that she would succeed if given the chance. Basically, bring her home, give her time to feel the ocean and perhaps learn how to catch fish again, and then let her go when her family was nearby. After that, it would be up to her. Years later, Springer proved the case, though her circumstances were different. It didn’t happen for Corky of course, and so much more time has passed since that such a simple solution seems very difficult to achieve. Hence the idea we’ve settled on, to create a “retirement home” for Corky that would allow her to feel the ocean and meet her family again.
It’s important to remember that difficult does not mean impossible.
So today, as we remember Corky and the long journey she has been on, let’s think positively. Creating a retirement home for her will be complicated and expensive, but it can be done. Double Bay on Hanson Island is in many ways a perfect location, as it would not only give Corky room to move around a space that is many times that of Sea World’s tanks, but also give her an acoustic window to Blackfish Sound, which her family visits often, so she would meet them again. It would not be full freedom in a literal sense, but compared to what she has now and for the past 46 years, a real taste. It cannot happen without SeaWorld’s active involvement. How to accomplish that I don’t yet know, but I believe it can happen. SeaWorld is in trouble and eager to show that it is doing the right thing by orcas. Corky can help them.
As I write this, a candle is burning in front of me and a dedicated group of Corky’s friends are standing at the entrance to Sea World, holding a banner and thinking about her too. Inside her tank, Corky is probably much as she was as few days ago when a dear friend reported: “Corky was in the west tank again with Shouka and Makani. A lazy moment, she floated in the same place for 15 minutes 30 feet away. I got my binoculars and looked her over. Black, shiny, her left eye patch a little ivory with age and old white scars, a small nibble at the top of her dorsal was red and fleshy. A trainer opened up the show pool that was empty and Corky and friends each took a loop. Corky swam so strong around, with her dorsal a foot out ripping and rooster tailing; she did a straight up ballerina turn in the center of the pool and then back to west pool to chill. She was vibrant! The water was choppy from her wake. So she is strong… and will wait.”
Please join us in lighting a candle for Corky!
by Paul Spong,
December 11, 2016
photos thanks to Lori Freiberger and Michael Reppy