May 17, 2014

Not Your Average Granny: 103-Year-Old Orca still Shaking Her Tail-fin!

orca whale

Poignantly, the day after Mother’s Day, this headline caught my eye – “B.C.’s matriarch orca ‘Granny’ is still going strong at 103.”

Wow!  I thought, A killer whale that’s over 100 years old! That’s awesome!

My mind floated back to that portion of Blackfish  that showed various SeaWorld employees informing people that the average lifespan of whales in the wild is 25-30 years.

View the clip:

The SeaWorld trainers actually claim that the whales survive longer in captivity, because of having veterinary care available to them! This is utter balderdash!

In the clip above, orca researcher Howard Garret explains, “We knew by 1980, after a half a dozen years of research, that they [killer whales] live equivalent to human life spans.”

Yet, when you go to the SeaWorld website, and navigate your way to the info on “Killer Whales – Longevity & Causes of Death,” the first bit of information reads: No one knows for sure how long killer whales live.

Hmm, in denial much, SeaWorld?

The article from The Province that caught my eye explains that “Granny” is the world’s oldest known orca.

From the article:

“Granny is believed to be 103 years old, which is far in excess of the average lifespan of 60 to 80 years for a wild orca…Captain Simon Pidcock of Ocean EcoVentures in Cowichan Bay was happy to spot the distinctive whale on Friday…. There was no doubt the orca was Granny, according to Pidcock. He could recognize the senior cetacean by her saddle patch, a distinctive white patch each whale has behind its dorsal fin. Granny is also recognizable because of a half-moon-shaped notch on the trailing side of her dorsal fin…Harris said Granny’s birth date of 1911 is an extrapolation by researchers based on her offspring… Granny currently has a great-grandchild travelling in [her] pod… Pidcock said researchers also determine age based on the size of the whales, and Granny’s current bulk can be compared to photographic images of her dating back to the late 1930s and early 1940s.”

With this kind of undeniably, it’s no wonder that The Dodo also published a piece on “Granny” titled: “Recently Spotted 103-Year-Old Orca Is Bad News For SeaWorld.”

Per The Dodo article:
“The Whale and Dolphin Conservation project estimates that whales born in captivity only live to 4.5 years old, on average; many of SeaWorld’s orcas die before they reach their 20s.”

So incredibly sad.

Unlike there wild counterparts, the orcas in captivity are not able to swim up to 100 miles per day. They can only swim in circles in concrete pens, when not performing tricks on command.

Swimming freely seems to be serving Granny well, considering the great shape she is in, even at her age!

From The Province article:
“The thing I found really, really interesting is that she’s in the shape to travel, to make the trek she just did with [her] pod,” said Harris. “That’s 800 miles in not even eight days. It’s amazing.”

Go, Granny!

When I shared the link to The Province piece on my Facebook newsfeed, I got the following comment from my friend, Theresa:

“My sister was really into killer whales when she was little, so my mom ‘adopted’ Granny for her birthday one year. A couple of years ago we went whale watching when she visited me in Seattle, and we saw Granny and her pod.”

How rad is that?

This is how we should enjoy viewing orcas and other whales – with them swimming freely in their natural habitat. Not in captivity, and certainly not in concrete pens at SeaWorld, where they fall ill and die early due to their low quality of life.

Let’s help ensure there are a lot more “Grannys” around for future generations.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Kim/Flickr

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