Under the coordination of the Ministry of Environment and Machalilla National Park, Pacific Whale Foundation Ecuador provided a free training during the months of August through early September. The gathering was a unique opportunity for Puerto López residents to learn from National Park representatives. Specifically directed towards those in constant interaction with whales, the training was attended by park rangers, guides, and captains of Machalilla National Park.
Collectively, the training brought together about 90 people including both veteran guides with many years of experience and new ones who will help with future protection. We were delighted to have the talkative guides with all their questions and even the silent captains who needed teambuilding games to loosen their tongues a little!
Summer break may be finished, but Ocean Camp memories gust thicker than my Oklahoma accent. As I plug away behind my computer reconciling administrative tasks and reacquainting myself with current events, I can easily become discouraged with the empty nest syndrome of a quieter classroom and the multitude of unjust issues impacting our precious marine life. Yet every climb down the stairs in our office confronts me with the reason why I do what I do. Tacked on an otherwise barren, white wall is a sign that speaks volumes above the noisy staircase it decorates. The artistically rendered petition reads, “Save Lolita” referring to a captive orca. This project is a representation of the many efforts that result from our educational program Ocean Camp.
Pacific Whale Foundation’s Keiki Whalewatch program is offered to create an impactful and interactive learning experience for our future generation. It is evident that many children who attend our program have yet to observe a humpback whale. After greeting the children, educators often ask the group, “who has never seen a whale?” Each time, several mini hands launch towards the sky in eager anticipation of the near adventure that will soon change that response. Designed so that children preschool through high school can experience these majestic animals in their natural habitat, Keiki Whalewatches allow children to connect with our marine environment, and for many, to see a whale for the very first time.
We ended June and entered July with our “Wild About Whales” week at Ocean Camp. Although the fastest recorded migration for Hawaii’s humpback whales is 39 days, campers covered this approximate 3,000 mile journey in only four days! Participating in a variety of activities, campers explored humpback whale feeding and calving grounds and learned about the respective whale behaviors occurring in these locations such as bubble net feeding and nursing.
By understanding whale anatomy and research techniques, campers also learned how to identify individual whales from their fluke which is unique to each individual whale similar to how every human has a different fingerprint! We even experienced a behind-the-scenes tour of our research lab where we received tips from the experts while being surrounded by a collection of humpback whale data recorded over the last 30 years.
As SeaWorld celebrates its 50th anniversary, Hawaii hosts its annual 50th State Fair. The theme—”Go Wild!” The paradox—the display of captive animals, such as a sea lion performance, to “promote” this. Last week at Pacific Whale Foundation Discovery Center, we completed the first week of our yearly summer Ocean Camp where keiki (Hawaiian for “children”) ages 5-12 learned about pinnipeds. The program allowed campers to distinguish the difference between seals and sea lions as well as identify their various natural behaviors like molting and hauling-out. After these fun-filled educational experiences and reading about the sea lion performances advertised on the E.K. Fernandez Shows, Inc. website, campers were determined to make their voice heard on behalf of the creatures they very much came to respect and appreciate without viewing or participating in a sea lion show. They eagerly wrote letters like the one below to express their concern.
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You, too, can join the plea of our future generation by directly expressing your concern about these marine mammals that were transported from Florida under the guise of education by E.K. Fernandez Shows, Inc. who “strive to provide exciting entertainment and attractions” and Sea Lion Splash who are the only traveling sea lion exhibit in the United States. To use your voice:
Ocean Camp is being featured on The Conversation with Beth-Ann Kozlovich and Chris Vandercook today at 8am on HPR2: 89.3, 89.7 & 88.3 FM Public Radio. They will be chatting with Lendy Leslie, PWF’s marine education specialist at the camp.