Photo by Marcelo campos
Advocates were thrilled when Gov. Roberto Bubas of Argentina submitted a plan for the release of Kshamenk, the lone orca at Mundo Marino. The plan was good news for those who fight the constant battle of ending captivity.
The problem came later when a group of experts concluded that the plan had significant holes and was not feasible. The sad news caused a mixture of anger and confusion, which lead to misinformation being shared as fact.
Many activists were outraged and claimed that many of the experts who assessed the plan worked at Mundo Marino. The situation was further complicated in translation. When “Mundo Marino” is passed through Google translator, it is translated as SeaWorld. Only one who submitted comments, Dr. Ricardo Bastida, has worked at Mundo Marino. He did not hide the fact that he worked at the rehab center there until he quit in 1998. SeaWorld was not involved in the decision at all, although it is known that their newest calf was sired by Kshamenk through Artificial Insemination (AI).
None of these experts have any hidden agendas, especially when it comes to keeping in orca in captivity. In fact, they have tirelessly used their own resources to find a sea pen that would be appropriate for Kshamenk with no avail.
Mr. Bubas undoubtedly had good intentions when he submitted the plan and it is important to recognized his stand against captivity. However, in the end, when presented with facts it is understandable, although disappointing, why the plan is not feasible. Here is a list of problems in the plan:
1. Bubas’ plan had significant holes including no health assessment of Kshamenk to determine if there were any diseases present that could cause harm to the wild orca population in the area.
2. The plan did not include any financial resources to fund the release or the after-effects.
3. Kshamenk’s family and home range are unknown and the release of an animal belonging to a different genetic stock goes against the current policy in conservation.
4. Ownership by Mundo Marino was blocked in Argentina in a legal file (2001-2006) to prevent export to the US.
5. Kshamenk was believed to be aggressive but the mental and health assessment showed that he responded to the trainers and has tight social bonds with them.
A “Reintroduction” plan is impossible due to the fact that his family and home range are unknown while a “Release” plan seem to be impossible, due to the legal and conservation regulations, the national government considered Kshamenk non releasable, possible health issues, lack of financial resources and his overall well-being would be compromised due to his bond with Floppy and human companionship.
The best option for Kshamenk would be a sea pen near the stranding location but unfortunately search efforts have concluded that there aren’t good locations protected from storms in that coast.
For those who want to help with a release plan, further efforts could be more efficiently used to help the Free Morgan Foundation.