Closing Day for your establishment is approaching and so are the pending Marine Mammal Standards, as you are aware.
Kiska has been observed swimming repetitive laps in her “back pool” throughout most of the 2015 season. We are aware that her access gate to her main tank is always open and when your staff is approached by anyone posing the question as to why she is in that tank, the response always tends to be something along the lines of, “She’s retired now. She’s living the life of luxury and can do what she wants. She just likes it in here now I guess.”
It also appears that many of your guests are asking the same questions as us because you have made it a point to display these white board signs in the cabana by Kiska’s main tank as well as one in her underground enclosure stipulating that, “if you cannot see our killer whale, she is in her back tank.”
We both know that this is unusual behavior for Kiska. Although you believe you are allowing her to come and go as she pleases and she can do what she wants, we would also like to remind you that this animal resides in solitary confinement and no longer performs. Not even a “Splash Session” a few times a day. She has not been able to communicate with any animal for over 5 years now………it is up to her trainers to provide enrichment for her sadly and part of that enrichment is to stimulate her MIND. If she can come and go as she pleases with no change to her pattern, everyday, all day, how does this stimulate her mind?
She is not provided with “toys” from what we have observed that are available to her if she wished to interact with them. She is queued for her feedings and a “belly rub” periodically but these things are not sufficient enough. Especially when you are caring for a highly social animal who is residing in complete seclusion and has done so for over 5 years now….
We would like to suggest that you close the gate access to her smaller tank periodically so at least it gets her mind active, then open it again. Put some objects in her tank she can interact with if she chooses. Do different exercises with her besides the one’s she is queued to do and has become routine for her. BREAK HER ROUTINE. MAKE HER THINK,
Again, we have heard guests comment such things as, “This is so sad. She is all alone……..Why is she in this tank swimming circles and not her larger one?” And clearly, you have heard the very same concerns from your guests.
Kiska has been in your care for almost 40 years now. Has lost all of her calves, has seen all her tank mates moved from her or die and now it’s as though she’s just being literally “hidden in the back” and provided with minimal, routine enrichment. It is up to YOU to provide her with as much enrichment as possible and there are so many things you can be doing that we don’t feel you are.
We understand that the Standards of Care for Marine Mammals will include more enrichment for Kiska and we trust the OSPCA will be following up on that with routine and surprise visits and there will also be people interested in Kiska’s welfare who will be ensuring the Standards are met.
We care immensely for this animal and do hope you will take our thoughts into consideration.