Save Lolita

All Things Are Possible!

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.

Through the eyes of a child, all things seem possible. Children have a hope that knows no bounds and an uncorrupted knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong. They haven’t been wielded by the norms of culture and are relentless in their demand for fairness. They are juvenile in their craving for justice, and this naivety can be potent when combined with an accurate education. Education is empowering. This understanding, combined with my own residual childhood dreams and a resurrected child-like hope, is why I do what I do.

Lendy Leslie, a fourteen year old freshman, has lived in Hugo, Oklahoma, for all of her life.  She is involved with honor programs and school activities.  She is a cheerleader, and she loves gymnastics.  Her favorite animal would probably be a whale or a dog.  Lendy would someday like to live near the ocean and become a marine biologist.

From a book I authored as a school project at 14 years of age.

Like our Ocean Campers, I was a young girl who desired to see dolphins and whales live in freedom, but somewhere along the way I lost that childhood aspiration. Maybe it was a lack of direction or available educational resources, but like many young people with dreams, it became a distant possibility.

On the other hand, they say a lot can happen in a year. During last summer’s Ocean Camp, the children created petitions in regards to the sea lion performances occurring at Hawai‘i’s state fair. This year, Hawai‘i’s Governor Ige respectfully vowed to cease the issuance of permits for wild animal acts like these. Although captive cetaceans (dolphins, whales and porpoises) are not included in this decision, such victories encourage us to keep hoping and using our voices whether BIG or small for matters both f-a-r and near.

I intend for my efforts at Pacific Whale Foundation to equip others with knowledge and awareness, so they are encouraged and inspired to protect our ocean and its inhabitants. So as I consider all the issues that threaten these creatures—adversities like captivitySONAR, marine debrisdrive hunts, and ultimately extinction, I remain child-like in my determination and tenacious in my teaching. Even though there is strong opposition in retiring captive cetaceans like Lolita, I continue to teach students about marine mammals and allow them to decide how they feel about captivity. I am hopeful that one day marine mammals will no longer face this particular issue because of the attitude the children demonstrate. As author Neil Postman stated, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”

I believe that all things are possible, and as a part of my job, I am thankful I get to be a part of creating that possibility.

Ocean Camp in Maui

Wild About Whales!

group photo with whale fluke 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.

From fluke to stomach, we dove into and digested the different anatomical features of the whale. After examining the cluttery contents found in its stomach (albeit a non-invasive cardboard-constructed, brown-boxed belly), campers were motivated to partake in a beach clean-up along the south shore of Maui.  In about 30 minutes, they accumulated over 400 pieces of trash. Cigarettes butts and monofilament fishing line along with bottles and cans galore were ingloriously represented in this raid for rubbish removal, but campers delighted in their dutiful stewardship and were even recognized and appreciated by fellow beach patrons.

As the camp week closed, our campers celebrated America’s Independence Day and the freedom this day represents so that we can be a voice to create change. Among captivity, whaling and SONAR, one of the major concerns our campers voiced was the effects of litter and marine debris.

Poster with USA flag, breaching whale and "no more trash" Ultimately, we learned to be “Wild About Whales” is to be both whale and well informed. By acquiring knowledge and awareness, we are empowered to protect freely a habitat where inhabitants can live freely — free of debris, captivity, SONAR and other conservation issues. We dream big at Ocean Camp!

Ocean Camp in Maui

“Go Wild!” The Paradoxical “Promotion” of Hawaii’s 50th State Fair

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. The Paradoxical `Promotion’ of Hawaii’s 50th State Fair
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.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

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:

Pacific Whale Foundation strives in mission to protect our oceans through science and advocacy.  We are an active participant in global efforts to address threats to whales and other marine life. We have been pioneers in non-invasive whale research and early leaders in educating the public, from a scientific perspective, about these marine mammals and the need for ocean conservation. We continue to do this through various integrated research, conservation and education programs such as Ocean Camp.

Ocean Camp in Maui

Summer School Classroom at the Beach

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.