Shouka the orca, also known as “the world’s loneliest whale,” will now have companions at her new SeaWorld San Diego home, after being moved from an isolated tank at a Six Flags park in Northern California.
A SeaWorld spokesman said Shouka was relocated after Six Flags could not find a suitable companion. The goal is to give the 19-year-old orca a habitat with other whales, according to an article from KGTV 10News.
The killer whale, born in France, previously lived at the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California, where she lived alone without other whales. Federal law dictates that captive whales and dolphins, who are highly social, must have at least one “suitable companion animal” of the same family. Shouka had a male bottlenose dolphin as a companion before, but they were separated after having “compatibility issues,” according to Six Flags.
David Kirby, a journalist and author of the book Death at SeaWorld, wrote an op-ed for TakePart recently, asking that Shouka be sent back to France, where she was born:
“Shouka’s small pool is surrounded by a stadium where she performs several times a day for gawking visitors. But unlike her distant cousins at SeaWorld and other theme parks, Shouka lives completely and utterly alone. Keeping such a social, complex, canny creature as an orca by herself is not only crushingly distressing for the animal, it is patently in violation of federal laws and regulations.”
A petition on Change.org to get Shouka a companion garnered more than 7,000 signatures in the last few weeks.
On August 20, Shouka was flown from Oakland to Lindberg Field. In flight she was held in a nylon sling in a foam-padded container filled with water and was accompanied by a veterinarian, animal care specialists, and trainers.
“The first order of business here will be for her to become introduced and integrated into the killer whale family here—we have eight killer whales already—as well as get to know her new trainers and acclimate herself to her new home,” SeaWorld spokesman Dave Koontz told KGTV 10News.
Shouka was successfully introduced to Corky, the park’s oldest female killer whale, KGTV 10News reported.
Though Shouka has been moved to a new home, the media coverage has elicited comments from critics who have pointed out that she is still in captivity and forced into performing for humans.
As Kirby wrote in his op-ed: “Eventually Shouka, like all captive orcas, should be retired to a coastal sea sanctuary to live out her remaining years in a more natural habitat, free from the demands of doing backflips for tourists, and perhaps more content in the companionship of others like her.”
Do you think Shouka’s move to Sea World is enough, or should she be reunited with her family in France? Let us know in the comments.