Sideshow Theatre’s Tilikum: A Bleak Fantasy, Ripped From the Headlines

June 30, 2018

“Tilikum, the infamous SeaWorld killer whale, has died.” That was the headline in the Orlando Sentinel on January 6, 2017. Sideshow Theatre’s world premiere production of Tilikum takes the story of that sea creature and creates a poetic, percussive fantasy that demands that we pay attention to a range of social justice issues.

In her playbill note, playwright Kristiana Rae Colón references Ferguson, Missouri, and Black Lives Matter. She asks us to imagine a world without prisons or police. “Close your eyes. Imagine the sound of the ocean. Imagine a world without cages. Imagine a world without borders.”
On the surface, Tilikum is a documentary treatment of the life of an orca whale in captivity in a marine theme park. But it also enables Tilikum to tell his own story, starting with “When they snatched me.” He repeats that line again and again.

Tilikum is not subtle in its emphasis on its messages. But the staging by director Lili-Anne Brown is creative and memorable. Tilikum is staged in the pool of a marine theme park, where Tilikum (Gregory Geffrard) is dumped from his net by the Owner (Matt Fletcher) who has bought the six-ton whale, expecting his investment to be enhanced when Tilikum mates with the female whales.

The rear of the stage is the glass of the observation pool, where the shadows of female whales and calves swim. (Paul Deziel’s projection designs are quite remarkable and beautiful.) Behind the pool, three musicians perform the percussive music that forms the soundscape for the play as well as the language with which the females communicate with Tilikum.

The Owner hires Dawn (Sigrid Sutter) as the park’s new orca trainer. She bonds with Tilikum and the two perform a sensual dance in Tilikum’s pool. Tillkum, lonely and depressed in captivity, longs for his pod, remembers his mother, and misses “strumming love songs for Koosa Labal… Never a fish so fine as Koosa Labal, and when I was king enough to court her she’da been mine.” Playwright Colón makes us see the pain of captivity (slavery, imprisonment). “How long I’m in for?” Tilikum asks repeatedly, objecting to the tiny module he lives in.

Dawn hosts the orca show for the audiences that flock to see the huge creature perform. Later the Owner, from his control booth next to the pool, is concerned when Dawn bonds too closely with the animals and demands that she stop swimming the whales on her own. But Dawn has other ideas, including a new “late night” act with Tilikum.

Geffrard, a versatile actor, gives a powerful performance as Tilikum. The three musicians add texture and drama as well as the whalesong sound. Coco Elysses is composer and music director. The other two musicians are Melissa F. DuPrey and Joyce Liza Rada Lindsey. Wearing mask-like face paint, they represent the whale god Thixo; the whale goddess of violent death, Lambo; and the whale goddess of peaceful death, Waresa. Throughout the production, they drum Tilikum’s praises and communicate with him in his prison, as he tries to learn their tongue.

Tilikum follows the details described in the news story about Tilikum’s death. His story is also told in a 2013 documentary, Blackfish, which Colón mentions as one of her inspirations for the play.
Before Tilikum begins, the obligatory turn-off-your-devices message includes a reminder. At the Biograph Theater on Lincoln Avenue, we are on land stolen from indigenous peoples: the Miami, Illinois, and later the Sauk, Shawnee, Winnebago, Kickapoo and Pottawatomie tribes.
Tilikum by Sideshow Theatre Company runs 90 minutes with no intermission. See it at Victory Gardens’ Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave, through July 29. Tickets are $20-30 for performances Thursday-Sunday.

Source: Third Coast

Beluga whale sanctuary is world’s first to rehome mammals kept in captivity

June 26, 2018

The world’s first beluga whale sanctuary is being created to rehome mammals kept in captivity.

Two females called Little Grey and Little White will be the wildlife haven’s initial residents when they are transported from the Chinese aquarium they have been cooped up in since 2011.

It is hoped the Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary in Iceland will help bring an end to whales and dolphins being held captive for entertainment.

Trust chief Andy Bool said: “We’re delighted to break new ground in marine animal welfare. This project is a pioneering solution to how the aquarium industry can reshape the futures of whales in captivity.

“We believe providing a more natural habitat for Little Grey and Little White to dive into cool waters and interact with the natural environment will greatly enhance their quality of life.”

The sanctuary is being set up in ­partnership with Whale and Dolphin Conservation at a bay on Heimaey island, off Iceland’s southern coast.

It will be as a more natural home for the pair than in the aquarium. WDC chief executive Chris Butler-Stroud said: “We hope it will create a blueprint for further such ­sanctuaries for belugas and other captive whales and dolphins, which are desperately needed to address the risks captivity poses to their health and welfare.”

It will be as a more natural home for the pair than in the aquarium. WDC chief executive Chris Butler-Stroud said: “We hope it will create a blueprint for further such ­sanctuaries for belugas and other captive whales and dolphins, which are desperately needed to address the risks captivity poses to their health and welfare.”

Little Grey and Little White, both 12 years old, will move from Shanghai’s Changfeng Ocean World to the ­sanctuary next spring.

They will make the 6,000-mile trip by air, land and sea and are undergoing training to get them used to the ­equipment that will transport them.

The sanctuary, backed by a donation from Merlin Entertainments, will comprise of a natural sea inlet and include a landside care facility and visitor centre, to help off-set long term running costs.

But the Sea Life Trust insisted it “will be very carefully controlled to ensure the whales are not disturbed in their new and very natural environment”.

It is hoped more captive belugas will be taken to the sanctuary. But there are no plans to house dolphins.

Marineland owner John Holer has died at 83

June 24, 2018

John Holer, the founder of the Niagara Falls amusement park Marineland, which over the years attracted both revellers and protesters, died on Saturday.

He was 83.

Holer, who had been ill in recent months, was a “visionary” and “leader in the tourism industry,” said Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati.

“He was a pillar, and he was a pioneer,” said Diodati. “He created a lot of opportunity for a lot of people and (his death) is a loss to the community.”

He credited Holer with creating thousands of jobs, helping folks put food on the table and countless kids pay for college and university tuition.

Diodati said Holer’s legendary marketing prowess — as evident in the commercial jingle “Everyone Loves Marineland” — brought millions of visitors to Niagara Falls, filling hotel rooms.

But in reality, not everyone loves Marineland, which has for years been embroiled in controversy, including the alleged mistreatment of animals.

Marineland has always maintained its animals are well-treated and allegations of abuse are not true.

Still, animal welfare activists have fought for years to shut it down, at times protesting outside the park’s main entrance.

Diodati believes Marineland, a family-owned company, is now at a “crossroads.” It can continue as is or, given its size of about 1,000 acres, it can be sold to housing developers, currently buying up land in the region. Or it can be sold to, or transformed into, an amusement park without animals.

Over the years, some of the world’s biggest amusement companies have tried to buy it, but Holer refused to sell because the park was his life, said Diodati.

“I would love to see it continue as an amusement park without the animals,” he said.

“I think it would be wildly successful, it would be welcome and it would help to feed into the critical mass of tourist attractions.”

On Sunday, the Star was unable to reach Holer’s widow, Marie, or son Peter. Another son, John Mark Jr., died in 2013. A company spokesperson couldn’t be reached.

Holer was born in 1935 in Slovenia, then part of Yugoslavia. He immigrated to Canada and landed in the Niagara region in the late 1950s and started a circus.

“A vast number of visitors were coming to Niagara Falls, and there was very little for them to do besides the actual falls,” Holer recalled in a 1983 interview.

Sensing an opportunity, he opened Marineland in 1963, with a few sea lions doing shows in a small pool. Over the years, he bought more land — this too was controversial because on one occasion it involved the eviction of 47 families from a trailer park he had acquired — and the park grew into a massive tourist attraction that included a killer whale, beluga whales, dolphins and land animals, such as deer and bears.

Although society’s attitudes about keeping animals in captivity have changed over the years, Holer’s did not. Yet he did love those animals, said Diodati, noting, “The animals were his family, they were most important to him.”

Tim Parker, Marineland’s operations manager from 1994 to 1999, described Holer as a hard worker, who was first to arrive in the morning and last to leave, overseeing all aspects so visitors got the best possible experience.

“He was very devoted to what he did at the park,” said Parker. “There was nothing he wouldn’t do for me, or any other employee. He was always there with his hand out, helping.”

And Holer’s kindness extended beyond the park’s gates, said Parker.

“When I built my house, he was there with his construction equipment. He was saying, ‘You need a house. Let’s build it.’ ”

Since the park’s opening, it garnered headlines.

A bear cub once escaped for a few days, a bison wandered out onto a nearby highway, and four bears mauled a fifth to death in front of visitors.

In 1977, the U.S. government seized six bottlenose dolphins Holer had caught in the Gulf of Mexico, and following the death of a beluga whale in 1999, arson threats were made against him.

In 2012, the Star wrote extensively about whistleblowers from Marineland alleging mistreatment of animals, including a killer whale that spent its final four years indoors, often alone in a small pool with little natural light; dolphin skin floating in the water; and a sea lion that suffered eye damage because of filth in the water.

Following the Star investigation, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) did not charge Marineland, but ordered it to make changes, which the park complied with.

In late 2016 and early 2017, the OSPCA laid a total of 11 animal cruelty charges against Marineland, but all were withdrawn in court last summer.

Parker said Holer was always determined to clear his name.

“Holer was a very strong man. He had been dealing with it (controversy) since opening the park,” said Parker.

“He fought for what he thought was right for the park and for his customers.”

Source: The


June 20, 2018

Change creates winners and losers, and that includes climate change, especially at the top of the world. On the losing side of the environmental ledger we find the polar bear, floating glumly on its ever-shrinking ice floe. On the winning side, a new apex predator is cruising northern waters.

Since 1984, the Arctic Ocean’s multiyear ice pack has shrunk from 61 percent coverage to 34 percent, according to a National Snow & Ice Data Center report. Bad for bears roaming a frozen realm to hunt ringed seals and other prey; good for killer whales, or orcas, which in years past have avoided the region because their 6-foot-high dorsal fins make it difficult for them to zoom around under the ice in pursuit of fish, sharks and other prey.

But these carnivorous members of the dolphin family, which are up to 32 feet long and tend to prowl in packs of about 10, now are exploiting a new hunting ground way up north, particularly in the eastern Canadian Arctic, around Baffin Island and Hudson Bay, notes Donna Hauser, research assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

And there’s more bad news for bears. Orca prey includes ringed seals — a favorite food of a polar bear population already stressed by vanishing ice. Also on the menu are such whale species as narwhal, beluga and bowhead. “The open water is an advantage for the killer whales as they have a longer window of time to hunt,” says Steve Ferguson, research scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The orcas are already making their presence felt. A 2017 report published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of Americaconcludes that “the presence of killer whales significantly changes the behavior and distribution of narwhal.”

A factor related to shrinking ice is also disrupting the region. The volume of warmer Pacific water flowing into the Arctic Ocean via the Bering Strait has surged 70 percent over the past decade and now equals 50 times the annual flow of the Mississippi River, according to a paper published this year in the journal Progress in Oceanography. An increasing northerly flow is also occurring on the Atlantic side of the basin.

That’s helped other opportunistic species wend their way north. Humpback whales, marine mammals typically found in the sub-Arctic, have been sighted off Alaska’s North Slope for the first time. To the east, mackerel, cod and other fish native to northern European coasts are migrating deeper into the Arctic Basin, toward Siberia. Newly invasive bird species like the crested and least auklet, northern fulmar and short-tailed shearwater are pushing aside black-legged kittiwakes, thick-billed murres, glaucous gulls and other traditional summer residents of the northland.

Given that sea ice helps cool the planet by reflecting sunlight back into space, its loss almost surely will alter climate and weather beyond the Arctic. As yet, scientists aren’t quite sure how. But there’s a chance that when the orcas are winning, the rest of us may be losing.


Diver captures orca knocking out helpless stingray on film

June 19, 2018

A lucky diver off the coast of Mexico has captured the rare moment an orca slapped a stingray. 

Underwater photographer Jorde Hauser was diving in the Sea of Cortez in the Gulf of California when he filmed an orca aggressively swinging its tail and knocking out a stingray, Caters Media reported. 

The orca then spent the next hour playing with the stingray by swimming circles around it.

“I had a feeling something interesting could happen, as the orcas had been playing with the ray for a while, coming and going,” Mr Hauser said.

“I’m typically a photographer, but I luckily decided to switch to video and get close to the ray.”

“At first, the orcas were paying little attention to us – they would briefly come to check us out and then leave, but when they saw the ray, the game changed.”

He said it felt like the orcas were trying to show off to him and his fellow divers.

“After the first smack, the poor stingray was left disorientated and without any strength to swim away – it was really sad but he appeared to just float there waiting for another tail slap.”

The veteran diver of 18 years said this interaction and behaviour was without a doubt the most incredible underwater experience of his life. 

To watch VIDEO visit the Source News

Cowichan Bay whale watchers record ‘alarming’ navy sonar testing in Saanich Inlet

June 16, 2018

A group geared up Saturday afternoon to catch a glimpse of the Saanich Inlet’s marine life, but on a recent visit captains from Ocean Ecoventures Whale Watching heard something they weren’t expecting.

“They were doing not only just sonar testing but invasive sonar testing,” says head captain Gary Sutton.

He used an underwater microphone to record the high pitch sound, he says came from nearby the navy’s HMCS Calgary.

“We actually went closer to it [and] once I shut down [the vessel] you could actually hear it through the hull of this boat with no hydrophone and that was shocking to me,” adds Sutton.

He says what’s most alarming is this was happening not far from whales.

“We actually had killer whales that day 10 minutes away.”

It comes as the endangered population of southern resident orcas has been dropped to just 75 members. The Center for Whale Research has listed L92, a 23 year old male, as deceased.

Source: Check

Missing Puget Sound orca, L-92, presumed dead

June 16, 2018

The Center for Whale Research has confirmed the loss of a 23-year-old male orca L-92, also known as “Crewser.”

Some sad news about the health of Washington’s southern resident orca population.

The Center for Whale Research has confirmed the loss of a 23-year-old male orca L-92, also known as “Crewser.” Orca experts have not seen L-92 in a month and he is presumed dead. Orca experts had been searching for him off the coast of Tofino, British Columbia.

L-92’s death brings the population of the southern resident orcas down to 75, according to Orca Network. The number of endangered Puget Sound orcas has fallen to a 30-year low.

Their population has struggled because of lack of food, pollution, noise, and disturbances from vessels.


When faced with a killer whale should you fight or flee? It depends on whether you are a pilot whale or a dolphin

June 16, 2018

Anti-predator behaviour

THAT the best form of defence is attack is an old maxim. In reality, it is frequently untrue; running away is a far better option. But it seems to be the approach taken by pilot whales when faced with a pod of killer whales which are looking for dinner.

That, at least, is the conclusion of Matthew Bowers of Duke University in North Carolina. He came to it as the result of a study, just published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, which he and his team conducted on pilot whales (pictured) and Risso’s dolphins—two closely related species of small cetacean. He knew that killer whales, which are partial to snacking on both of these species, chat with one another during the normal course of events, even if they tend to stay quiet when making an attack. He therefore speculated that potential prey would react to distant killer-whale communications, it being risky to do nothing. What he did not know was what the reaction would be.

To find out, he and his colleagues gathered a library of cetacean calls. These included those of killer whales, pilot whales, Risso’s dolphins and humpback whales. They then played these calls to pods of their target animals, in order to find out what happened.

In a series of experiments—ten on pilot whales and four on Risso’s dolphins—the researchers tagged one member of the pod under observation, in order to gather detailed information about what was happening to it. They also employed a team of experienced marine biologists to make observations of the entire pod from boats.

The tags were fitted with several instruments: pressure sensors to measure depth; magnetometers to record orientation with respect to Earth’s magnetic field; accelerometers to measure movement; and microphones to record chatter. They were attached to the animals’ bodies by specially designed suckers and detached themselves four hours after attachment, to float to the surface for recovery.

The team employed two small vessels to tag the target animals and to observe as far as possible from the surface the positions and behaviours of pod members. One or other of these boats played the recorded calls, in random order, modified to sound as if the creatures making them were about a kilometre away. The observers were not told which calls were being broadcast, in order not to bias their observations. Once the detached tags were recovered, the data therein were correlated with the biologists’ records of events.

As might be expected, neither pilot whales nor dolphins reacted much to the calls of conspecifics, of the other prey species or of humpbacks. Both, though, reacted rapidly to killer-whale calls.

The dolphins did so by forming into a tight cluster and then bolting at top speed away from the observation vessel that was playing the calls. The pilot whales also formed a tight cluster on hearing the killer-whale calls. But in contrast to the dolphins they increased their chatter, turned in the direction of the boat broadcasting the calls and moved at a steady, almost threatening, pace directly towards it.

Since no actual killer whales were involved in this experiment, Dr Bowers cannot say what would have happened in any subsequent confrontation. But he suspects that it would have led to a form of attack called mobbing. This is a tactic employed by terrestrial and aerial prey species but not widely recorded under water. As the name suggests, it involves members of a group of potential prey attacking a predator as a mob, confusing it and threatening it with injury. This generally causes it to retreat, permitting the potential prey to get on with their lives in peace.

Why pilot whales and Risso’s dolphins behave differently in response to the threat from killer whales is unclear. Both live in groups of several dozen animals and so have the numbers needed for collective defence. It may be because pilot whales are bigger than Risso’s dolphins. But the dolphins are not so small as to be a negligible threat to a killer whale. As to seeing a pod of pilot whales take on killer whales, that would surely be the money shot of any wildlife documentary that managed to get the footage.


Watch as killer whales swim in waters in Montego Bay, Jamaica

June 13, 2018

Swimmers have been warned not to go near the animals

A large pod of killer whales are seen swimming in waters off Jamaica in this social media footage.

The video, posted on Jamaica Environment Trust’s Facebook page, is reportedly from Montego Bay.

Swimmers have been warned to keep their distance from the majestic creatures.

Lecturer in Environmental Studies at the Jamaican University of Technology Christine O’Sullivan told that while orcas have attacked humans in the past, it usually happens in captivity.

The teacher added that the animals may be migrating or it could be their natural area, while warning that if their behaviour is affected by people they could leave their feeding grounds.

She urged watchers not to go near the creatures, who may have a calf with them.

She said: “We have to be aware that these are wild animals so I would not recommend anyone trying to get into the water with them.

“If you are in a boat don’t get too close to them and don’t approach them too closely or too rapidly.

“They may be very protective of that calf as well and when you have a lot of boats in an area attempting to follow a group of dolphins, it tends to affect their behavior. Killer whales are dolphins.”

Source: Irish

Killer whales approach snorkelers off Mexico coast

June 12, 2018

A group of snorkelers off the coast of Mexico captured video of their close encounter with a group of killer whales that swam over to investigate the humans.

The video, filmed Saturday in the Gulf of California, shows the snorkelers looking on in surprise as the orcas pass almost within arm’s reach.

The filmer said the killer whales had been eating mobula rays when they spotted the humans nearby.

The orcas swam past the snorkelers to take a look, but didn’t display any aggressive behavior toward the humans.

To watch VIDEO of the encounter visit the Source