Tuesday, May 28, 2024

France asks WSP for proposal to take in orcas

Jane Goodall endorses planned sanctuary project

  • April 10 2024
  • By Joanne Jordan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

PORT HILFORD — The proposed Whale Sanctuary Project (WSP) here continues to garner international attention; most recently, by receiving an invitation from the French government to submit a pitch to provide a home for a pair of captive orcas from that country.

Officials in France made the offer after receiving an endorsement for the planned Nova Scotia project from Jane Goodall, the internationally acclaimed English conservationist, who has expressed her concern with the welfare of captive whales and dolphins for many years.

Michael Mountain, WSP spokesperson, told The Journal, in an email interview, that Goodall wrote a letter to French officials on Feb. 29 in support of a proposal from the group to retire orcas, Wikie, Inouk (died in March) and Keijo, from Marineland Antibes to Port Hilford.

As for Goodall’s connection to Nova Scotia, Mountain explained that Lori Marino, WSP president, has been a parliamentary advisor on The Jane Goodall Act (Bill S-15) since it was introduced in the Senate of Canada in late 2020. The proposed legislation would phase out keeping elephants in zoos, while also providing protections for other captive wild animals in the country.

“It expands on Bill S-203 - Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act - which was passed in June 2019,” he noted.

Marino and Executive Director Charles Vinick were invited to join the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) cetacean committee in early 2023, where they discussed how to help captive cetaceans living in marine parks.

Mountain said the WSP has also been advising the JGI on a bill to ban whaling in Iceland, along with the welfare of six bottlenose dolphins in Boudewijn Seapark, while working closely with cetacean committee co-chair, Koen Margodt.

In her letter to the French government, Goodall referenced her vast experience dealing with mammals, adding that she believes moving the orcas to another entertainment facility would be harmful to the whales and that they would be much better off in the sanctuary in Nova Scotia, where they could live out their lives in the natural habitat, while continuing to be cared for by humans, with which they are accustomed.

Goodall stated in her letter, “Orcas are intelligent, emotionally sensitive and very social. They cannot thrive in a setting that deprives them of the ability to explore a natural environment and choose how to spend their days without being burdened by having to entertain human audiences.”

She added, “Demanding orcas to perform day after day the same circus tricks for dead fish is no longer keeping up with our values and standards for animal welfare. Not only I, but many people agree that this must stop globally.”

JGI released the letter following the death of Inouk at the end of March.

“Marineland Antibes has been planning to send the orcas to an aquarium in Japan,” said Mountain. “Our proposal to them is that they collaborate, instead, with the WSP and with the French government to retire the whales to the sanctuary in Nova Scotia.”

Mountain added, “Once a collaboration begins, there will be a period of several months needed for a team of independent veterinarians to complete health and behaviour assessments, and for training programs, so that the whales can become accustomed to the many routines that will be involved in transport and acclimating to a new environment.”

He noted that the estimated time to bring the orcas to the proposed WSP sanctuary in Port Hilford would be the spring or early summer of 2025.

“We have been in discussion with the French government since early this year,” said Mountain, “and the government has now invited the WSP to submit for government consideration a detailed plan for the transfer of the whales and for their care over the ensuing years.”