3 female orca, all from the Northern Resident Killer Whale community…… 3 very different lives.
A-16 (A-5 Pod, A-23 Matriline)
I-20 (I-18 Pod, I-18 Matriline)
G-2 (G-12 Pod, G2 Matriline)
G-2 born in the ocean into the G-12 Pod.
A-16 born in the ocean into the A-5 Pod.
I-20 born in the ocean into the I-18 Pod.
December 11 1969
A-5 Pod enter Pender Harbour British Columbia. After a struggle that lasted almost all night:
A-16 and 5 other orca are selected for capture.
A-16 is taken from the wide ever-changing ocean, her pod and her mother’s side…..from everything she has ever known for her entire life and placed in a small never-changing tank, hundreds of miles from home.
A-16 is housed with 4 other orca, all Northern Residents and all taken from the ocean either at the same time as A-16 or 1 year previously. They are Kenny, Patches, Corky and Orky 2. (Orky 1, the resident bull had already died by the time A-16 had arrived.)
Corky dies at Marineland of the Pacific.
A-16, in a feat of breath-taking imagination, is named Corky 2. (The numeral has subsequently been dropped.)
Patches dies at Marineland of the Pacific.
Kenny dies at Marineland of the Pacific.
Orky and Corky are trained to entertain the public visiting Marineland of the Pacific, which they do until the park closes in 1987.
Corky gives birth to a male calf. 17 days later it is dead.
G-2 gives birth to a female calf, G-34.
G-34 is alive and still living in her ocean home. She is now a grandmother.
October 31st 1978
Corky gives birth to a male calf. 12 days later it is dead. Naturally he was called “Spooky”.
I-20 gives birth to a female calf, I-21.
I-21 is alive and still living in her ocean home. She had her own calf in 2006.
April 1st 1980
Corky gives birth to a premature and stillborn female calf.
G-2 gives birth to a male calf, G-28. He has not been seen since 2001, and must be presumed dead.
June 18th 1982
Corky gives birth to a female calf.
She is named Kiva.
August 3rd 1982
July 22nd 1985
Corky gives birth to a female calf. it is dead a month later.
G-2 gives birth to G-36. The calf does not survive.
I-20 gives birth to a male calf, I-52.
I-52 is alive and still living in his ocean home.
Corky suffers a miscarriage.
Marineland of the Pacific closes. Orky and Corky are moved to SeaWorld San Diego.
Corky suffers another miscarriage shortly after arriving at SeaWorld.
September 26th 1988
Orky dies at SeaWorld San Diego. He was approximately 30 years old. The necropsy report gives his cause of death as “Acute Bronchopneumonia, Nephropathy”.
G-2 gives birth to G-43. The calf survives for 3 years.
Corky is involved in a violent exchange with Kandu 5, the dominant Icelandic captive attempts to rake Corky but instead breaks her jaw rupturing an artery. Kandu 5 bleeds out for a painful and heart-breaking 45 minutes.
G-34 gives birth to a female calf, G-49.
G-2 is now a grandmother.
I-20 gives birth to I-66. The calf does not survive.
G-2 gives birth to G-53
G-53 is alive and still at home in the ocean.
I-20 gives birth to a female calf, I-83.
I-83 is alive and still living in her ocean home.
I-20 gives birth to a calf, I-101.
I-101 is alive and still living in the ocean.
G-34 gives birth to G-70.
G-70 is still alive and living in the ocean.
G-2 gives birth to a calf, G-77.
G-77 is still alive and living in the ocean.
G-49 gives birth to a calf, G-71.
G-71 is still alive and living in the ocean. G-2 is now a great-grandmother.
I-21 gives birth to a calf, I-119.
I-20 is now a grandmother.
I-83 gives birth to a calf, I-126.
I-20 is a grandmother for the 2nd time.
Corky, meanwhile swims round and round her tank, a pointless journey with no destination. She isn’t travelling to feeding grounds or meeting other family members such as her little brother A-60 who she has never seen. She just swims round and round akin to an over-sized goldfish in an under-sized bowl or she performs banal tricks for the paying public.
She cannot echo-locate properly and there is no one else left alive in captivity from the Pender Harbour captures almost 50 years ago for her to communicate with. She has no off-spring. She is alone, even with the other orca in her tank, there is no familial connection apart from the tenuous genetic link she might have with Orky’s calf Orkid.
She is unaware that her mother A-23 died in 2000, yet as a wild orca she would have been with her mother for her entire life and would have seen her die and been able to mourn her passing. The life skills her mother and the other pod members would have passed down to her would have been invaluable to her as wild orca. But that was not to be.
In a devastating experiment, Corky was played a recording of her pod from the wild. The results from that are summed up best by British journalist John McCarthy who was held hostage for more than 5 years in Lebanon.
“When the whales at SeaWorld were played a sound recording of a group of whales made at sea, they all stopped moving in their tanks. Then one of them, Corky, began shaking violently. The tape was playing sounds of her family. I have no idea if this creature shares any feelings that we know as humans, but her reaction reminded me of the times I heard messages from my own family when I was a hostage in Lebanon. I would feel great relief at knowing they were well, but also much sorrow and a sharpened longing to be reunited with them. What is clear is that Corky could recognize her family’s sounds after years of separation…Knowing only this much I believe it is pointless and cruel to keep these animals apart for commercial reasons – to exploit them for commercial entertainment.”-John McCarthy.”
Corky is, by all accounts, a calm and gentle orca. She knows the ropes and is, apparently, the orca most often used to build the confidence of rookie trainers at SeaWorld. The trainers clearly have a huge amount of affection for the orca they are charged to care for, but we cannot replicate their natural environment and we don’t even feed them their natural food. No orca would eat dead fish day and day out, no matter how high the quality.
Corky stopped ovulating just after she arrived at SeaWorld and the trauma of her 7th known pregnancy ending in yet another death. Thankfully, she has never been subjected to SeaWorld’s AI breeding programme which may have simply ended in yet more lost calves.
She has suffered enough.
19 known pregnancies
11 deaths SEVEN of which are Corky’s calves.
***Many thanks to “Miss Mary” for her boundless knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, the Northern Resident Killer Whales. Any and all errors regarding the NRKW’s life events are mine.