Shouka, the killer whale, needs a companion
By: Wendy Brunot
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.
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!!