This year marks the 46th year of captivity for Corky, a member of the A5 pod in the Northern Resident orca community. Corky has now survived longer than any other wild orca taken during the capture era of the 1960s and 70s. Lolita, a Southern Resident orca held at the Miami Seaquarium, is a close second, captured in 1970; these two whales are the oldest living in captivity today. Corky was approximately four years old when she was captured, and had been given the designation A16 in the newly-established census of orcas in the Pacific Northwest. In the Pender Harbor roundup when she was taken, all twelve members of the A5 pod were temporarily penned while six were selected for sale to oceanariums. Corky lived in a tank with other pod members for a short period of time before being sold and transferred to Marineland in Palos Verdes, California, where she joined Orky, another member of the Northern Resident A5 pod who had been taken the year before – the two were likely related and possibly even as close as cousins. Corky and Orky were close companions for nearly twenty years, and Orky was the father of all seven of Corky’s calves.
While Corky languished in tanks, first at Marineland and then at Seaworld San Diego, giving birth to and losing seven calves in ten years, her family, the A5s, swam free. She has siblings, nieces, and nephews that she has never met. She has lost family members she will never know. Her mother, who Corky would have spent her life traveling with, died in 2000. In their matriarchal society, Corky would have acted as babysitter to her younger siblings and relatives, learning how to care for newborn and young family members from her mother and aunts until she had her own calves. The capture era left the A5s with just six individuals.
Corky is the only Northern Resident still alive in captivity today. The wild A5s now have twelve members, five in Corky’s immediate family. The demand to free Corky from a life of captivity and return her to a seapen in her native waters is going strong. With recent legal initiatives aimed at creating ocean sanctuaries for captive orcas, Corky is a perfect candidate for a return to her ancestral home.
This Friday, December 11th 2015, marks Corky’s 46th year in captivity. Please join us as we light a candle to honor her on this sad anniversary, and reflect on what her life could have been like with her family in the waters of British Columbia – swimming wild and free.