Two recent news stories. Both involved beluga whale calves. The first involved the birth and premature death of a calf born to Maris, a beluga whale who arrived at the Georgia Aquarium in 2005.
I have heard that the baby beluga was a full forty pounds underweight at birth. Born underweight, not healthy. Lived only five days.
The second story involves a different baby beluga whale. A baby beluga born in the wild. And even though she was separated from her mother and cannot survive without nursing, this baby seems to be doing better than Maris’ baby. Even with all those experts and blood samples taken from Maris’ baby. But that’s another post for another day.
This second baby beluga whale was found in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, separated from its mother, perhaps in a storm. A baby beluga whale nurses from the time it is born until it is approximately two years old. But this baby beluga, at only two to three days old, somehow survived separation, however brief, from its mother. And even being separated from its mother, this baby was healthier than the one born to Maris, in captivity.
Now, you may be thinking that it’s not fair to draw far-reaching conclusions based on two examples, where there are many variables, far more than any of us knows. And I think you’d be right.
But I’m not drawing any conclusions based on these two examples. I’m just relaying two stories. I already know that captivity is inherently cruel, that captivity of these sentient creatures, even in a habitat larger than the far-too-small one at the Georgia Aquarium, is wrong.
I’m also sending out a plea to those in control of the wild baby beluga to put on your thinking caps to find ways to help the chances of her being released.
But two stories. One of a little calf born to captivity that didn’t have much of a future. But who died before she could live out that destiny. The other of another calf, now destined for a lifetime of captivity. Unless someone gives him access to the ocean, tries to find the little wild one’s mother and family now now now, cares for him in a sea pen where he can retain some ability, however slight, to communicate, he will end up, like Maris, being seen as someone’s broodmare or, like Beethoven, Maris’ deceased calf’s father, a stud.
Please, captivity industry. Do better for this little rescued butterball than keeping him in a landlocked concrete box where it is less likely that he will be found to be releaseable. Keep him in a sea pen near where he was found. Listen for his family. Let him try to communicate with them.
Thank you to all the workers and volunteers who work for these animals, trying to save them and restore them to freedom.