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A Petition To Free A Whale From Marineland Went Viral & Quebecers Are Joining The Fight

The orca, which lives in Ontario, has been called "the loneliest whale in the world."

Associate Editor
A Petition To Free A Whale From Marineland Went Viral & Quebecers Are Joining The Fight

This article contains graphic content that might not be suitable for some readers.

Hundreds of thousands of people — including Quebec activists — have mobilized online to free a whale living in captivity at an Ontario Marineland facility. The orca has reportedly been alone in a tank for 10 years.

At the time this article was written, more than 359,000 people had signed a "Free Kiska, the Last Orca Held in Captivity in Canada" Change.org petition, which demands that the whale be placed in "an appropriate facility, such as a whale sanctuary." The petition has been shared by the Montreal SPCA and was signed by Quebecer Mario Cyr, a famous deep ocean filmmaker.

If the petition reaches 500,000 signatures, it will become "one of the top signed petitions on Change.org," the website says.

Who is Kiska?

Kiska is reportedly the last orca in captivity in Canada.

According to The Whale Sanctuary Project, which called Kiska "the loneliest whale in the world," she has been living alone in a concrete tank since 2011.

The petition says she was captured almost 40 years ago off the coast of Iceland.

Why are animal rights groups concerned?

"The negative developmental effects of orcas in captivity have [led] to a deterioration in their mental and physical well being. Captivity has left these animals without the skills they need to survive in the open ocean," the petition reads.

Narcity Québec spoke to Sophie Gaillard, the Montreal SPCA's director of animal advocacy, to find out more about the orca's situation.

"Orcas are animals that are incredibly intelligent, with complex social needs. In the wild, they travel and live in groups with a communication system that is very sophisticated to communicate with each other. We know from many studies that their ability to bond, their deep and complex emotions, rival the emotional capacity of humans," Gaillard said.

"Kiska is a killer whale who has been kept alone in a tank for over a decade. She lives in conditions that we wouldn't even consider for our worst criminals here in Canada, so it's absolutely unacceptable to keep her like this."

Dr. Naomi Rose, a scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, has also spoken out about Kiska.

In an Animal Justice blog post, she's quoted as saying, "In my opinion, Kiska's situation is cruel."

"At a minimum, she should have long since been transferred to a facility with other orcas or provided with individuals of another cetacean species as companions [...] Under no circumstances was allowing her completely solitary state to continue — especially given her practically inert response to it — the appropriate choice," she continued.

Is anything being done besides the petition?

Animal Justice, a Canadian national animal law advocacy organization, has filed a formal complaint with the Ontario government.

It asks them "to enforce their animal protection laws regarding Kiska's situation. Ontario law, like here in Quebec, prohibits causing physical suffering to animals, but also psychological distress," Gaillard explained.

The complaint also references videos published by former Marineland employee Phil Demers.

"The 35-second-long compilation of aerial shots of Kiska offers a clear view of both her and her environment. Kiska is in a small pool — the bottom of which is partially obscured by an apparent accumulation of feces. Kiska floats listlessly near the surface of the water. At points in the video, Kiska is so motionless that she appears to be dead," the complaint states.

Another video posted to YouTube by Demers on July 16, 2021, shows Kiska in a similar state.

Phil Demers | YouTube

"This footage, shot from inside Marineland in a location with a view inside the glass walls of Kiska's tank, once again shows Kiska floating near the surface of her enclosure and slowly swimming towards the camera operator before stopping," reads the complaint.

What does Kiska's future hold, according to the SPCA?

"What we're asking is that there be measures put in place immediately to ensure Kiska's psychological well-being. For example, we could consider providing her with tank mates that belong to another cetacean species, such as dolphins, but we should also consider transferring her to a sanctuary as soon as possible," Gaillard said.

"We are incredibly lucky right now to have a whale sanctuary in Nova Scotia that would be ready to welcome Kiska with really huge enclosures in the ocean, with constant supervision by veterinarians to ensure her well being and then obviously she could be in contact with other whales."

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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