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Shouka Needs A Companion

March 23, 2012

In 1979, a memorandum of agreement was signed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (F&WS). Under this agreement, Animal Welfare Act (AWA) standards and regulations were acknowledged to be the evaluation criteria for captive care and maintenance requirements for marine mammals and APHIS was designated to provide the inspection and enforcement workforce to implement the regulations.

Section 3.109 of the Animal Welfare Act states “Marine mammals, whenever known to be primarily social in the wild, must be housed in their primary enclosure with at least one compatible animal of the same or biologically related species, except when the attending veterinarian, in consultation with the husbandry/training staff, determines that such housing is not in the best interest of the marine mammal’s health or well-being. However, marine mammals that are not compatible must not be housed in the same enclosure. Marine mammals must not be housed near other animals that cause them unreasonable stress or discomfort or interfere with their good health.”

Since November 2011, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA has not been abiding by this law when it comes to keeping a companion for the killer whale, Shouka. In 2002, Shouka was taken from her mother, father and siblings in France and transported to Six Flags World of Adventure in Ohio to become a new profit maker for the park. Shouka’s new companions were bottlenose dolphins. When SeaWorld purchased the Ohio park  in 2004, Shouka was moved to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA. Shouka’s new companions at the Vallejo park became Merlin and Cupid, two male bottlenose dolphins. Shouka had lived with both Merlin and Cupid for over 5 years, but now she is completely alone.

Before the park opened in April 2011, Cupid was moved to another tank in the park to join a group of bottlenose dolphins leaving Shouka and Merlin alone. Throughout the 2011 season, I personally witnessed Shouka and Merlin continuously separated in their tanks by gates. Shouka often performed shows alone with Merlin locked in one of the back tanks of the stadium alone. As of November 2011, Merlin was moved to join Cupid and the other bottlenose dolphins, leaving Shouka with not a single companion of her own species. Even though Merlin and Shouka are not both killer whales, the way the USDA’s APHIS interprets the law, it is acceptable for a dolphin and a killer whale to be considered companions as they both are marine mammals of the order Cetacea.

Shouka and Merlin

Killer whales are one of the most intelligent, social beings living on this planet. They form strong social bonds with their family members and remain with their family pod for their entire life.  Leaving Shouka alone without any type of companionship except for humans is utterly cruel and inhumane and against the law. I had written to APHIS several times during 2011 advising them that Shouka was without any companionship and they have completely ignored my concerns.

So I’m now asking for your help. Please take a quick moment of your time to sign this petition demanding that APHIS enforces the law and requires Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to provide Shouka with a compatible companion. Shouka has been alone for at least six months!!

http://www.change.org/petitions/usda-aphis-western-division-enforce-section-3-109-of-the-animal-welfare-act#

You can also write, email or call APHIS:

USDA/APHIS/AC

2150 Centre Ave.

Building B, Mailstop 3W11

Fort Collins, CO 80526-8117
E-mail: acwest@aphis.usda.gov

Phone: (970) 494-7478

Fax: (970) 494-7461

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Steffi permalink
    March 24, 2012 12:18 am

    Instead of keeping in captivity and adding another to captivity, release Shouka if releasable!

    • March 24, 2012 1:55 am

      Unfortunately Shouka would not be a good candidate for release. She has no bottom teeth and her wild family pod is unknown. She would be a good candidate for retiring to a bay/sea pen but if that’s not going to happen, then the least SF can do is make sure she has a companion and is not alone.

      • marsmick permalink
        May 3, 2012 6:36 pm

        Was she born with no bottom teeth or is this a result of captivity injury/infection?

      • May 3, 2012 6:54 pm

        She was born with all her teeth. The condition her teeth are in now are a direct result of living in captivity. Since living at Six Flags, Shouka has broken and grinded down her teeth by chewing on the steel gates. In this video, Shouka’s trainer attempted to explain that orcas have hollow teeth and so they actively drill out the teeth as a proactive step so in case the tooth breaks, nothing gets stuck in her teeth and they can flush them out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2q_CzOuXEc&list=UUYWsqeOmlqyRjPXZ8w0PnkQ&index=14&feature=plcp

        They only have “holes” in the center of the tooth IF the tooth has broken & the pulp died. Orca tooth anatomy is the same for wild & captive orcas…their teeth have a center soft fleshy pulp cavity which fills the “hole” & it is living tissue protected by enamel layers, sorta like a human tooth, just different material in the base. Instead of having what we know as a root they have pulp..but a healthy tooth is not hollow by any means. You can read more about captive orcas and teeth drilling here: http://theorcaproject.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/the-hidden-cost-of-captivity-oral-health-of-killer-whales-exposed/

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