Antibes Marineland…the SeaWorld of France. Both companies are closely linked, and have been so for a very long time. Below, we’ve put together some information to show you just how intertwined they really are.
1. Time of the catches
Calypso arrives in EnglandSeaWorld captured Calypso on December 11, 1969, near Pender Harbour in British Columbia. Just like Corky2, still alive at SeaWorld San Diego today, she belonged to the A5 pod of the Southern Resident Orcas.
On that day, 12 orcas were captured. 6 have been released, 6 others have been sent to the United States. Calypso was then sent from the States to the zoo in Cleethorpes, in England.
She stayed there for a few months, until the Marineland in Antibes had repaired the leaks in the basin that was intended for her. But it wasn’t for long : Calypso died in December 1970, at the (estimated) age of 11. In essence, she only survived one year in captivity (see the video).
In Cleethorpes, the small orca also had to endure the very beginning trials of artificial insemination, first conducted on this species by veterinarian David Taylor. The attempt was made with sperm from Cuddles, a male from Flamingoland who died in 1976 at age 5.
At the time, this technique was still in its infancy.. The first successful artificial insemination at Marineland was not until March 2011, with the birth of Moana.
SeaWorld captured Clovis in Penn Cove, on the 8th of August 1970, together with Lolita-Tokitae. The unbearable images of these hunts can be seen in the film “Blackfish,” where babies are taken away from their mothers while the whole pod cries and screams.
Clovis died in 1973. He was only 4. The Marineland in Antibes had just killed a child.
Lolita is still alive, but has been kept isolated and captive for over 30 years at the Miami Seaquarium.
SeaWorld also captured Kim(also called Oum), on October 10, 1976 in Medalland Bugt, Iceland.
Kim Orca at marinelandIn the late 70s, the young Kim grabbed his trainer and held him under water for an extended period of time before releasing him. This incident was ignored. However, the press, at the time, liked to present this orca as a “killer whale…a bloodthirsty cousin of the dolphin.” While false for wild orcas, it foreshadowed the unfortunate series of events that would occur with the captive ones.
Kim had been sick throughout his captive life. His health problems worsened to such a point that he became blind and underwent injections in his eyes. The vets of Marineland have tried a blood transfusion, but the blood of Betty, his companion, was not compatible with his. The French park then asked SeaWorld for help, but SeaWorld refused to give blood from its orcas. Kim died in Antibes of a lung abscess on the July 24, 1982 at the age of 14.
A blood transfusion could not have saved him–only prolonged the inevitable.
In October 1978, SeaWorld captured Betty in Skardsfjara, Iceland. She was then “parked” in the Hafnarfjordur aquarium, specifically built for holding SeaWorld orcas before purchase and shipment to Marineland. Betty lived with Kim for 4 years, then with Kim 2 and with Freya. Betty died in Antibes on the September 8, 1987 at the age of 13 from pneumonia.
SeaWorld captured Kim 2 together with Freya in October 1982 near Stokkseyri. He was also held in the “Icelandic fridge” until his transfer to Antibes on March 6, 1983. Kim 2 was very calm, despite his enormous size. He endlessly repeated the same trick until he was sure his trainers were happy. He rarely refused to be moved and always behaved properly during the shows. However, since moving into the new basin, he had difficulties dragging himself on to the edge, as the show required. Frustrated, he was then seen hitting the water surface with his fin several times.
He got on well with the other orcas. According to Marineland, problems started when he began to turn on daughter, Shouka, which would be an unimaginable behavior in the wild. Kim 2 and Shouka enjoyed being together and often swam side by side, with their bellies up. Shouka was sent to a marine park in Ohio in June 2002. According to the official statement, Kim 2 died of septicemia and pneumonia on the November 23, 2005 at the age of 27. According to other sources (probably better documented), Shouka’s transfer depressed him to a point that he started to put on weight, became apathetic, and eventually died. He had a parental attachment to each of his children and never recovered from the departure of the eldest.
SeaWorld captured Sharkan in October 1989, at the age of 4, near Hornafjordur, Iceland. The other victims of the raid were Ran, Tanouk and Ai. They all died between 1995 and 2004.
Sharkan and Tanouk, who also awaited their fate in the Sædyrasafnid Aquarium, were purchased by Marineland of the Antibes and transported to France by boat on the January 12, 1990. The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) had banned the import of living cetaceans in Europe not long before, but Marineland managed to get a derogation.
Sharkan was pregnant as soon as she turned six (in the wild, the females begin producing offspring at age 13 or 15), and gave birth to Shouka in 1993, to Inouk in 1999, and to Wikie in 2001. When Wikie was born, it was Valentin, Freya’s son, who played the role of “auntie.” In the wild, it is often a mother, a sister, a cousin or a friend who helps to push the newborn to the surface.
Sharkan was also submitted to artificial insemination–but in vain. Kim 2 was the father of her 3 children. She was also the grandmother of Moana, who she never got to know, contrary to the century-old matriarchs of Puget Sound. She died on January 3, 2009 of a septicemia (Bacille Pyocyanique). She was only 23.
SeaWorld captured Tanouk together in October 1989 near Hornafjordur, Iceland. Tanouk and Sharkan were most likely related, either siblings or cousins. He arrived in Antibes at the same time as her, on January 12, 1990. But things did not go well : Tanouk kept fighting with Kim 2 in the tiny tanks they were forced to live in. He was therefore sold 5 years later to the Izu-Mito Sea Paradise, in Japan. Renamed Yamato, he survived there with Asuka, a female caught in Taiji in 1997. Asuka lived there for many relatively peaceful years, in a sea pen, before dying in 2007 at the age of 17. Tanouk died on the 24th of October 2000, at the age of 14.
Freya was only 2 when she was captured by SeaWorld in Stokkseyri, Iceland in October 1982. She belonged to the same pod as Kim 2. In 1991, she had her first miscarriage, followed by a second in 1993. In 1996, on Valentine’s Day, she finally gave birth to a baby boy named Valentin.
Unfortunately, in March 2000, Freya suffered another miscarriage. Inbreeding might explain these repeated failures–her partner was probably her brother.
Her fin was bent on the right, which is unusual for captive orcas. In the old pools, she was always swimming clockwise along with Kim 2, thus bending to the right. The white spot on her side is the trace of a tumor treated by x-ray in 1995.
On the September 9, 2008, Freya dragged her trainer under the surface. The woman managed to escape, but not after Freya crushed her with her body weight–twice.
The trainer tried to take back control of the situation by standing on Freya’s back, but was violently thrown away. She was then dragged to the edge of the basin and managed to escape the killer whale, who was then in an angry fury. All of this occurred under the applause of the crowd and to the sound of James Brown…
Since Betty had died in 1987, Freya had always appeared like the matriarch. While she took part in the shows, it was not without caprices or hesitations. Valentin, Inouk and Wikie became victims of her mood swings. Every miscarriage plunged her into a deep depression–she was given contraceptive for a while, but artificial insemination trials have resumed on her since 2000.
After many sufferings, Freya, the matriarch of Marineland Antibes in France, died on June 20, 2015 at barely 34, after 32 years of captivity, due to a “chronic” disease not yet released by the park.
Here is an excerpt from the blog “endkillerwhalecaptivity”; information from the book by David Taylor, the vet who took care of Freya during her captive years. We find the explanation for her white scar and the likely culprit to the “chronic disease” that Marineland won’t name. Apparently, nothing like the “tumor healed by rayon-x treatment” they explained for years…
“In 1986, a routine monthly blood test showed an anomaly with Freya’s white blood cells. Another blood test three days later indicated that Freya had the beginnings of an infection somewhere in her body. She was immediately put on a course of Amoxycillin antibiotics, but these had no effect, so the vets tried other antibiotics, all of which proved ineffectual at treating the whale’s rapidly worsening infection. Freya began to appear listless and would only pick at her food. Over the next few weeks, her appetite dropped to almost nothing and she developed ‘peanut head’, a dip behind the blow-hole that is an indication that blubber is being drawn away from that area due to starvation. Freya’s condition was reminiscent of other captive whales that had died of chest abscess, so Marineland’s vet, David Taylor, suspected an infection in her chest or lungs. At the time, portable x-ray machines were not powerful enough to penetrate a whales thick blubber, so the Director of the park at the time, Michael Riddell, persuaded an aircraft company to lend them a new x-ray machine used to find faults in airplane engines. The machine, powerful enough to find a hairline fracture in a block of steel, proved useless and nothing could be seen on the images it produced. However, a week later, Freya developed a radiation burn, an inflamed circular patch of skin appeared on her right side where the powerful x-ray machine had been focused. The damaged patch of skin later fell out and formed an ulcer that took over three years to heal, although the white patch on her side remained until her death.
Freya stopped eating completely, lost more weight, and started to go into kidney failure. She was then sequestered to the medical tank. The Director got in touch with an electronics company that helped the French Navy develop their Sonar, and they agreed to bring one of their portable sonar machines to the park to test out on the whale a week later. In the interim period, Freya was fortified with vitamin injections and hormone supplements.
A week later, with Freya looking “worse than ever,” the medical pool was emptied of water and the sonar machine set up. During the probe, Freya seemed uncomfortable and annoyed; “Most likely she could hear the irritating whine of the machine in a way that we could not.” She may have been able to feel the vibrations too, but the scan was a success and the inside of the whale could be seen. Freya had chronic pleurisy and a raging infection, with lesions between her ribs and on the outside of the right lung.
Freya was immediately put on a course of Erythromycin (a drug commonly used to treat legionnaires disease), and Cortistone injections. Over the next two weeks Freya’s appetite began to improve and “she started to swim around the hospital pool instead of hanging forlornly in one corner.” The sonar test was repeated, which revealed that the lesions were starting to break up. During this time, Freya was allowed back into the main pool and rejoined in some shows.
“We continue to check the killer whale regularly and I still don’t consider her to be be absolutely one hundred percent normal, the healed scars in her chest cavity are probably bothering her from time to time,” David Taylor said. Freya died on June 28, 2015.
2. Born in a prison
The killer whales basin in AntibesSuch eagerness for orcas and dolphins to reproduce can be explained as follows: for marine parks, a birth is both a commercial bargain and “evidence” that the animals are happy. Places such as Marineland and SeaWorld claim that the act of reproduction is evidence for the well-being of the animals, despite the fact that most conceptions are artificially inseminated. As of fall 2013, the number of captive orcas in the world is only 52…making the contribution of new genes essential to the longevity of the parks. The order of Russian beluga whales by the Georgia Aquarium and the “rescue” of the orca Morgan in the Norwegian Sea show that panic is winning over the industry.
In 43 years of existence, the Marineland in Antibes has only managed to breed 6 orcas. Their life is exactly what you would expect of captive children. They have a very restricted sensory, social and intellectual world, are trained from their birth to endlessly repeating the same tricks in a small and barren space.
1. Shouka was the first, born on February 25th, 1993. Daughter of Kim 2 and Sharkan, she is also the sister of Wikie and Inouk and the half-sister of Valentin, with whom she shares a (dead) father.
On May 20, 2002, Shouka was rented to the Six Flags World of Adventure (in Ohio), with the pretext of moving her away from her dad’s seduction attempts, but mainly for breeding purposes.
Her partner was to be Kshamenk, forced to shore in Argentina. He was going to join her but the transfer never happened. Kshamenk is still alive at the Mundo Marino, all alone in a tiny and filthy water hole.
Shouka and MerlinShouka remained deprived of any company for two years before being transferred to the Six Flags in California on the April 19, 2004. She shared then her basin with a few dolphins, including Merlin, who she got along with very well. They stayed there for 7 years together before Merlin was moved elsewhere in November 2011, leaving Shouka on her own again. She became “the loneliest whale in the world.” An international campaign demanded to at least her return to France, close to her family, but it never happened.
One month later, on August 20, 2012, Shouka was transferred to the SeaWorld in San Diego. She had not seen another orca for 10 years. She is swimming there nowadays with Corky 2, Kasatka and 7 other orcas, amongst which the “boiling” Ulysses, who impregnated her sister, Wikie.
2. Valentin was born on a beautiful evening on February 13, 1996. He was the miracle child for Freya, who had only known miscarriages before his birth. Valentin is the only one in Marineland lucky enough to enjoy the presence of his mother next to him. Amongst orcas, the mother & son relationship is very intense. Some males spend their whole life with their mom and their grandmother. Even as adults they stay very close, and that behavior is shown each day with Valentin and Freya. But Valentin has reached the age of sexual maturity. Around him, there is only his half-sister Wikie, his half-brother Inouk, and his mother. Will he be masturbated like a breeding bull or will he be sent to Japan too? In 2008, at the age of 12, Valentin attacked his trainer Niko. However, no specific details have been given about this attack.
3. Baby Inouk was born on the February 23, 1999. But the age of innocence did not last. He witnessed the death of his parents, Kim and Sharkane. Mourning behaviors have been seen with, similar to those observed in groups of elephants. It was a very difficult hardship for little Inouk, who, like other males, was still very dependent on his mother.
4. Wikie was born on the June 1, 2001. She also suffered from the death of her father, then of her mother. The departure of Shouka was just as difficult for her as it was for Valentin–orcas have a powerful brain an are very self-aware. They think, they anticipate, they remember and they communicate, at least in the wild. On July 17, 2009, Wikie attacked her trainer at the surface of the water before taking him to the bottom of the pool. The man survived. There has been no mention of the incident in the French press.
5. On the March 16, 2011, the Marineland in Antibes caused a big stir in the press with the birth of Moana. He is the son of a parent born captive and a parent born free–two very different lifestyles.
Wikie, his mother, was less than 10 – which is far too young – when she was inseminated with the sperm of Ulysses from the United States. Her distant partner is a “founder”; SeaWorld captured him on the November 7, 1980 from Reydarfjördur, Iceland at the age of 3. He has lived in several parks, including Sædyrasafnid Aquarium in Iceland (the orcas “waiting room”), the Rioléon Safari, and the Barcelona Zoo before arriving at SeaWorld in January 1994.
This is the father of Wikie’s child, yet she knows nothing about him.
This birth is undoubtedly a victory for the Marineland, who finally managed to master the techniques of artificial insemination. The park will therefore quickly try to repeat this feat, melting the hearts of the media and boosting their sales exponentially.
Orcas are not monogamous, and the couples are temporary. However, this does not discredit the idea that personal connections are formed during sexual contact, or even reformed as, very often, the lover of a few days is a neighbor or a friend of a familiar pod.
Even though it legally is entitled to conduct research, this French “zoo” has never financed any study about the psychological impact of being pregnant without a true relationship. Marineland has a mission to inform the public of the real lives of these creatures and to ensure the conservation of this species. These videos make this easy to doubt.
Moana is now the favorite for thousands of fans chatting away on the Facebook page of the amusement park. He seems to be doing well, ut the average age of captive-born orcas remains extremely low (4 and a half years at SeaWorld) and early deaths are numerous as adolescence approaches. The average longevity of Antibes orcas is extremely low as well, but it is true that, before the construction of the new basin in 2003, cetaceans were held in a much smaller space. Conveniently, all the old images of the Marineland appear to have been cleaned off the Internet.
6. Keijo was born on November 20, 2013. He was born to Wikie and Valentin, making him up to 12.5% inbred. Wiki and Valentin are half-siblings. Such a behavior is unimaginable in the wild, where moral laws strictly forbid incest. But what do they know about that, these unfortunate orcas born in a concrete tank without true parents and without true culture?
It is not impossible that Moana is also the result of incestuous love. According to SeaWorld, Ulysses, her alleged father, has been considered sterile since 2009. Moana was born in 2011.
3.What does the future hold for the orcas?
The future of these 6 prisoners raises the ultimate question–where do we go from here? Their group, built on the corpses of 9 of their fellow captives, is only a sham for a basic family unit.
Eventually, there will be more heartbreaking separations, more incestuous unions, more traumatic arrivals and more untimely deaths.
It is time for the public authorities to observe these atrocities and make a change. The moral choice to impose such an impoverished existence to these intelligent beings should be revised, not only in France but in every other country that exhibits shows with trained cetaceans.
The Marineland in Antibes will not remain an unassailable citadel forever praised by the media. We must be accountable and question the real meaning of this cruel and foolish practice. The time has come.
Translated by Christelle Bornauw and Sabrina Kim
Sabrina is a 2nd year at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, USA majoring in Biology and Foreign Affairs. She has volunteered for La Dolphin Connection for more than a year, spending most of her time translating articles from French to English and writing originals in English. Additionally, she was the co-founder and co-president of the Protect Our Dolphins (POD) club at her high school, working to donate money to the Oceanic Preservation Society.