Right now, somewhere, Sea World and Loro Parque employees hear the news from New Zealand and shake their head watching their most vehement critic, Ingrid Visser, capturing an orca calf, placing him in a pool (is it chlorinated?) and then rubbing his belly, giggling with delight.
Bob (a young orca calf), around 6 months of age was first seen nearly 3 weeks ago. The action was only taken 2 days ago, when Bob was finally captured and placed in a pool. Ingrid Visser’s supporters and groupies are still high with joy, posting on Orca Research Trust Facebook page comments like:
“ As long as Dr Visser and her team are caring for him I am confident he is in good hands”
“ At least with Dr. Ingrid Visser at the helm we can be assured that this calf will be released back into the wild, if only Morgan had been released as well like they promised at first, until they realised they could make money off her.”
The money-making part of the last comment is especially interesting, since Ingrid Visser and the Orca Research Trust have started a rather aggressive fundraising pulling all heart strings they could find.
Some supporters are confident that Bob will be released:
“ Ingrid is strongly against captivity so he will be released when he is able to look after himself, but hopefully they can find his pod.”
But will he?
If you have followed us, you would know we have been advocating for rescuing stranded orphaned calves very strongly since they are typically euthanized. So, why are we not happy with Bob’s rescue?
To begin with, we have to say, being in a pool is better than euthanasia, so in this sense we are very happy. But we also recognize that Ingrid Visser, the Orca Research Trust and all experts flying from the USA are entering extremely dangerous territory.
Bob should have been rescued and reunited with his pod weeks ago. Back then he was not as weak as he is now, and his pod most likely was still in the area. It is very likely that Bob belongs to a pod of transient orcas, and once they have left the area, it will be problematic if not impossible to reunite Bob with his pod. On Tuesday a public member reported an orca pod exhibiting some sort of searching/circling behavior, it was reported to DOC and Orca Research Trust but no actions were taken, why exactly? Bob is no longer in water, no distress calls are heard and his pod might have left.
Worse, in complete disregard to the rule of wildlife rehab, Ingrid Visser and her staff interact closely with the calf, risking the development of strong imprint and strong bond, that will jeopardize and complicate the release.
We have been critical about the plans for sea pen sanctuaries plans proposed by Ingrid Visser and the Whale Sanctuary project, and are afraid that Bob will be held longer than needed not only because of publicity, media attention and money he brings, but because he will be made into a poster boy for their sea pen sanctuary, being the first resident instead of being reunited with his pod like 3 weeks ago.
We are surprised that Ingrid Visser, the Orca Research Trust and all experts involved essentially behave like the same captivity organizations they have been criticizing and rallying against. Bob’s best bet would have been to be released 3 weeks ago and reunited with his pod. All efforts including planes and drones should have been devoted to it. What we have now is a calf that is being groped, petted, interacted with constantly while Ingrid Visser giggling with delight and calling herself his “mom”. Although the public is asked to report orca sightings, these reports are not acted upon, and there are no planes in the air looking for a pod.
With every passing day Bob’s chances of reuniting with his pod diminish. Just to be clear, if Bob was a stranded whale with medical needs, we would have not said a word, although would protested close interactions just the same. But Bob did not strand, he should have been reunited with a pod 3 weeks ago, there was absolutely no reason to wait 3 weeks and basically do nothing for him, then scoop him to the pool and start preparing him for a life in sea pen.
So how long until we will have “Free Bob!” situation?