Tag Archives: Maris

Maris died after being an experiment in life and death

The death of beluga whale Maris came as a shock to us all, including the Georgia Aquarium.  But the Georgia Aquarium knows what it rarely shouts from its tank-covering rooftops:  the beluga whale captivity industry is dying, just as surely as are “its” beluga whales.

Dying it is.  But becoming “extinct”?  Whether calculated to mislead the American public or not, the Georgia Aquarium has used the word “extinction”, generally known to characterize wild populations only, to describe the beluga whales in captivity.  It is obvious that this is a misuse of the term, but it is, however, true that the captive beluga whale industry is declining and dying, along with the 35 or so beluga whales now held in U.S. aquaria, and the only saving grace for this industry is, apparently, the influx of wild blood.

One need look no further for evidence of this industry’s death than the Georgia Aquarium’s own statement.

Because of the extraordinary, long-term care beluga whales receive at accredited zoological organizations like Georgia Aquarium, this birth is significant as it is the first viable calf to be born from parents who were born in human care. Maris was born at the New York Aquarium in 1994, and the father, Beethoven, was born at SeaWorld San Antonio in 1992.

Here the Georgia Aquarium revealed that there has not yet been a beluga calf successfully born in captivity who was born to parents who were both born in captivity.  I hope you got that.  Not one.  Not a single successful birth to a captive-born couple.

We’ll tell you the truth now. Even though the Georgia Aquarium was elated to announce that Maris’ second calf was considered “viable” – a significant milestone in the ongoing “experiment” to figure out how to breed captive beluga whale calves – the calf died after only 26 days in the tank at the Georgia Aquarium.  In the run-up to both of Maris’ calves’ births, the Georgia Aquarium spent far more time pointing out the high mortality rate, even among wild beluga whales, for first-born calves, and, as far as I can tell, told the public this significant factoid (that not once had a calf born of two captive-born beluga whales survived) only after they thought they had one who would survive.  So, why the consistent omission of this significant fact?  Notably, they did not mention it when the calf died, demurring to the “statistical probability of survival.”  Is this just another example of the “smoke and mirrors” that Judge Totenberg observed on the part of the Georgia Aquarium (Georgia Aquarium v Pritzker, at page 98)?

Maris giving birth on May 10, 2015, to her second female calf, considered viable. Neither are alive today.

Maris giving birth on May 10, 2015, at the Georgia Aquarium to her second female calf, who was considered viable. Neither are alive today.

Nowhere in the recent statements to the press does the Georgia Aquarium acknowledge this significant fact.

So, what to do? Capture! Import! It is little wonder, then, that the Georgia Aquarium took the unprecedented initiative to spearhead an effort to import 18 wild-caught belugas into the United States to add to the U.S. broodstock.  Eighteen: more than all the  wild-caught beluga whales currently-held in the United States.  To allow more successful breeding.  To maintain an industry.  To continue to feed the public the notion that it has a “right” to see them in tanks.  To “love” them so much that visitors will once again grace the turnstiles of the aquarium, season pass or no.

But right?  Entitlement?  As correctly and succinctly summarized by Judge Amy Totenberg in her Order in the case of Georgia Aquarium v Pritzker, at page 76:

In addition, Georgia Aquarium’s arguments presume that — contrary to the express purpose of the MMPA — the limited exceptions for public display and scientific research permits in section 1374 opened the floodgates for unfettered importation of marine mammals.  Nowhere does the MMPA “allow[] for the
continuing import of marine mammals for public display in the United States” or the unfettered right to such importation.  (Doc. 55-1 at 49) (emphasis in original).

The Georgia Aquarium knows that the beluga whale captive industry is dying in the United States, just as surely as have all the calves born to two captive born parents.  And now, the Georgia Aquarium has been schooled that it has no “unfettered right” to grab wild beluga whales to prop up the display industrym and it should stop sending any such signals to the public.

The future of the captive beluga whale industry is dying because United States aquariums hold only a handful of wild-caught beluga whales, and of these, only three are males.

  • Ferdinand, M, SeaWorld San Diego, caught 1975
  • Naluark, M. Mystic Aquarium, caught 1992
  • Imaq, M, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1990
  • Natasha, F, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1984
  • Mauyak, F, John G. Shedd Aquarium, caught 1984
  • Martha, F, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1988
  • Crissy, F, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1988
  • Allua, F, SeaWorld Texas, caught 1985
  • Kela, F, Mystic Aquarium, caught 1985
  • Naya, F, John G. Shedd Aquarium, caught 1992

This is certainly not the stable of studs and broodmares that the aquarium industry needs to build a genetically diverse, and therefore, robust, population of captive beluga whales, and the industry knows this.  For this reason, and perhaps others that only it knows, the Georgia Aquarium tried to import those 18 wild-caught beluga whales.  But its effort has failed, in failing to demonstrate that its import would not negatively impact the wild populations from which it may have hoped to extract fresh genes and better odds at reproduction.

It is impossible to speak about a dying industry without also coming to terms with the fates of 35 or so captive beluga whales in the United States.  As those in support of the Georgia Aquarium often say, “whales die.”  You just won’t hear me say, as they have done, “that’s life; get over it.”  I grieve for both the living and the dying captives.  But in particular, I grieve for the mothers who are used as part of a failing experiment to successfully breed a captive beluga whale born of captive-born parents.

So, how many more times must female captive-born beluga whales experience the death of a calf, being used as part of the aquarium industry’s Experiment in Breeding, before the public says, “enough is enough?”  Will the death of Maris and her two calves be enough?

I do not know if it will, but it should.

Rest in peace, Maris.

Rest in peace, Maris.

Rest in peace, Maris.

Are two calf deaths enough, Georgia Aquarium?

Another captive-born baby beluga has died at the Georgia Aquarium, and the Georgia Aquarium welcomes your “positive thoughts and support.”

Georgia Aquarium beluga calf died

Follow the bouncing focus: on the Georgia Aquarium.  The baby’s death is a loss “for the entire Aquarium.”

While I do not doubt that the Georgia Aquarium staff and other “experts” worked around-the-clock at trying to save this baby, pardon me if I am less than likely to send my condolences and kind words to an institution that bred two beluga whales for the sole purpose of building its stable of slaves.

But lest Maris’ loss be confused with human couples who continue to attempt to have a child, even in the face of miscarriage, let me say to you, do not go there.

I repeat, do not go there.

Maris shares nothing, as in, zippo, zilch, nada, with a human couple who chooses to attempt to bring a child into the world, and who has the full suite of choices in giving that child the best life possible.  Maris and Beethoven, who the Georgia Aquarium reports conceived naturally, had no such choices.

Maris didn’t have a choice in the 25 to 40 minutes per day that the baby nursed.  She didn’t have a choice when staff stood between her and her baby.

Georgia Aquarium Maris beluga calf dies

Unnamed baby girl at the Georgia Aquarium. Photo from AJC.

She didn’t have a choice in the formula that the Georgia Aquarium fed her baby, the one that “mimicked” beluga milk.

Maris didn’t have a choice in anything at all, and neither would the baby girl, had she survived.

Make no mistake, Georgia Aquarium.  Those who are opposed to captivity are grieving for Maris’ loss, but we do not grieve for yours.

What you can do:

Stand with us at Empty the Tanks to call for an end to the institution of marine mammal captivity.

  • When: Saturday, June 6, 2015; noon to 3pm
  • Where: Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker St., Atlanta, GA

Baby beluga at Georgia Aquarium dies – despite Maris’ having “stood up to her end of the bargain”

I am almost speechless. So I’ll be brief.

Beluga Whale Maris and Baby at the Georgia Aquarium

Maris and “her end of the bargain” at the Georgia Aquarium, unattributed photo from Georgia Aquarium facebook page

Georgia Aquarium’s official statement, as quoted in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, notes that the baby beluga whale, born on May 18, 2012, in the Georgia Aquarium, died today, despite Maris having “stood up to her end of the bargain.”

What bargain was that, Georgia Aquarium?

I’m just curious as hell. What was Maris’ bargain with you?

I have to say it again: Billy Hurley, Chief Zoological Officer at the Georgia Aquarium, said today, when interviewed about the death at the Georgia Aquarium of the baby beluga whale, “Maris stood up to her end of the bargain…”

The crassness of that statement – while not truly surprising, since Mr. Hurley doesn’t know the difference between dolphins, on the one hand, and dogs or horses, on the other – crossed the line.

What line is that?

It’s the line that reveals that the people who are entrusted with the care of these highly intelligent and sentient beings are incapable of appreciating this intelligence and sentience. It’s the line that reveals that the Georgia Aquarium views its dolphins, beluga whales and whale sharks as merely assets to grow a bottom line. It’s the line that reveals the aquariums’ willingness to tell only part of the story to preserve that “asset”. It’s the line that reveals the call for an immediate rehabilitation and release of these creatures to their god-given life in the wild.

If you had any doubt about these issues before, I trust that Mr. Hurley’s revealing comment got through to you and that you will sign a petition, sponsored by the Born Free Foundation, to end captivity for whales and dolphins.

So, to Mr. Hurley. Back to that bargain that you struck with Maris, what did you promise in return? Another chance to reproduce a baby that would either live its life in captivity, or die as your organization predicted it would? More captivity? Or did you promise something more lofty, like, you would continue to feed her in a small tank of salitified chlorinated artificially-cooled water?

That must be comforting to Maris, in this time of a mother’s grief.

I know, you and I are on the other side of that line, so I could stop there. But then Mr. Hurley said, after complimenting Maris on holding up her end of the bargain, “We will not give up.” Another question, Mr. Hurley. Not give up on what? Having Maris impregnated again, when you know the odds are against the baby’s, or babies’, survival?

Just sign the Born Free Foundation petition to end whale and dolphin captivity. You know he’s wrong.

Georgia Aquarium baby beluga – stable says the news

The last thing I read last night as I prepared to log out and turn off was an article by Save Misty the Dolphin published last year, Swimming in Sorrow: The Story Behind the Captive Breeding Program of Dolphins in the U.S.  It is an awesome article, and I can add nothing to it.

I’ll intro it by saying that, for those who have never considered the trauma to marine mammal mothers of the separation of their children, well, it’s time you did.  Or in the case of Maris, one of the most sentient beings on the planet, the trauma of giving birth in captivity.  And being self-aware, the recognition beyond “instinct” that her baby is in danger.  It is also reasonable that this self-aware being knows that if her baby lives, she will live in the same conditions known to Maris, however that knowledge occurs for her.  But, rest assured, occurring for her is an awareness of her and her baby’s situation beyond what any of us currently comprehend.

Maris and baby girl calf shortly after her birth, Georgia Aquarium, condition unknown

Maris and baby girl calf - motherhood is not something to be accomplished in a "program"

This article is helpful equally for those who consider Maris, who gave birth last Friday to a baby girl calf, as “just” an animal as well as for those who know that motherhood in any species is not something to be accomplished in a “program”.

Maris’ baby is, according the most recently online-available press, stable, but which the most current press release by the Georgia Aquarium was issued yesterday while the calf was in critical condition.

Here,the piece from Save Misty the Dolphin, describes some perhaps little-known facts about mortality among dolphin captive birth.  Because beluga birth mortality is even worse than in dolphins, the captive beluga breeding program is especially egregious.

Hang on, baby.  Freedom awaits you, your mother, and the others.

Baby beluga at Georgia Aquarium – in critical condition

Maris and calf at Georgia Aquarium

From Georgia Aquarium FaceBook page, uncredited

As horrific as the birth of a beluga to captivity is, the Atlanta Journal & Constitution manages to add insult to injury by making a baby bib crack in its opening line.  You know, the line that is supposed to capture the essential facts of the story.  But the insensitivity of the AJC is no real surprise here.  The AJC has been relentless in its support of the aquarium.  Although before the aquarium opened, it did have one pro-con piece, since then, it’s just been one long promotional campaign.

Maris Georgia Aquarium beluga whale

Maris, beluga whale born July 28, 1994, in captivity

The Georgia Aquarium began months ago preparing us for the death of the unborn beluga that Maris was carrying, by pointing out the factual statistic that about half of the belugas born in captivity die as infants.

So why does the Georgia Aquarium continue this larcenous breeding program?  Why not rehabilitate the belugas and dolphins for a life in the wild and release them?

Why?  Because they want to keep charging you money to have parties with Maris, Beethoven et al. in the window on the other side of your wedding reception, your corporate Christmas party, as well as the tours through the

Beethoven beluga whale Georgia Aquarium

Beethoven, beluga whale, born August 8, 1992, in captivity

exhibit, and the new “encounters” with the belugas.  And since they are not allowed to intentionally capture them just to let your rather shallow-if-romantic son propose to his soon-to-be affianced in front of the beluga tank, they have to breed them in captivity.

Hold on, young one.  Hopefully we can in the not-too-distant future secure your release with your mother and father.

In the meantime, we’ll tell the AJC that humor about the possible death of a newborn baby beluga whale is in bad taste, even for them.

For more information, there’s the enemy to dolphin and whale freedom’s blog.  They may be the enemy, but they are also the horse’s mouth.