Captain’s Blog

3 Killer Whale Facts You Already Know, & 1 You Wish You Didn’t Know

September 15, 2016

As the days start to shrink and the sun dips lower into the western skyline earlier each day, it’s a wonderful time to reflect on a busy whale watching season and a summer spent keeping tabs on our favourite neighbours, the orcas swimming and living in the waters of coastal British Columbia. We’ve seen familiar faces, new faces, and a flurry of activity from our friendly resident friends as well as our elusive transient population.

When you reflect on the world of orca whales, it’s easy to get sentimental. There’s a lot we know about these wonderful animals, but there’s a lot we wish we didn’t know.

The history of Orcas on British Columbia’s west coast, indeed, all over the world, hasn’t always been pretty.

So why talk about it? Because the only way to avoid the mistakes of the future is to remember those of the past.

First, let’s take a look at the good news, the positive facts we all love.

1. Killer Whales are Built on Community

There’s no better example of community than the resident orcas of J-Pod. From Samish and her grandmother, Granny, and her children Hy’Shqa, Suttles, and Se Yi-Chn, it’s easy to watch what we’ve known for a long time: orca whales care for and protect their family at all costs. They raise their children with great care and stay close to their mothers, sometimes for an entire lifetime.

2. Orca Whales are Revered Symbols of Power

From early recorded encounters between killer whales and the Coast Salish people of British Columbia, it’s evident that orcas have represented powerful symbols of respect for nature, the ocean, and the wildlife living in BC. Southern Vancouver Island has been inhabited for 11,000 years by people who respect and revere the natural habitat of these animals. Dubbed the Lords of the Ocean, the orcas of the pacific northwest have long served as a strong reminder of humanity’s spot in animal kingdom’s pecking order.

3. Marine Mammals are a Source of Wonder

Put yourself in the shoes of a child seeing an orca whale up close for the first time. For many children, not to mention grown adults, this encounter triggers a special spot in our minds. There’s an entire mysterious world that exists beneath the surface of the waves, one that’s filled with wonder and intrigue. Walking upright and breathing air with ease isn’t the only way to live.

The intelligence and majesty of a killer whale is evident upon first glance. The problem is that humanity has been seeking that glance by force for far too long.

1. Orca Whales Don’t Thrive in Captivity

Stay with me a minute. This is a bit of a tricky heading. These days we’re fully aware orcas are wild animals that would prefer to live their lives in the wild open ocean. For the past few decades we probably knew it as well, but that hasn’t stopped us, humanity, from treating them like a domesticated species.

It’s unfortunate, to say the absolute least, that we had to learn the hard way that orca whales don’t respond well to captivity.

Think of how much easier things would be if we were ignorant to the facts – easier for us, not them. These creatures are born in the wild, they feed in the wild, and they’ve thrived in the wild for far longer than any of us have been here. It would certainly be a lot easier to justify their treatment at our hands if we didn’t realize that captivity isn’t ideal. From captivity to whaling to general ignorance, the wild nature of orca whales was ignored for too long.

But not by you, loyal Orca Spirit adventurer. No, if you’re here, that means you’re fully on board with points 1 through 3.

And that’s a fact.

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