Support Letter For Corky

Dear Friend:

We often take personal freedom for granted. Sometimes, situations arise that make us aware of the fragility of our freedoms and the importance of defending them. Sometimes, loss of freedom becomes a rallying cry for great causes. The 27-year imprisonment of Nelson Mandella & the great cause he fought for and won has inspired millions of people around the world and given us all real hope for a better future. Here, I want to bring to you another great cause that cries out for action... for freedom and for justice.

"Corky" is an orca whale. She was abducted from her family in 1969 at the age of 4. At the time we knew very little about orca, now we know much more....

Orca are the largest members of the dolphin family. Orca have huge brains, far larger than humans, and long memories. Orca live in close families that stay together for life and over generations. Orca communicate with one another using dialects unique to each family. Orca families form co-operative communities that share ocean spaces. Orca families and communities have long traditions and complex cultures. Orca live long lives, females as long as 80 years, males 50. Orca captives suffer from loss of family and their normal world. As a result they often die quickly in concrete tanks. Some remarkable individuals live longer than most. Corky is one. She is the oldest surviving captive orca. Yet, at 30 years of age Corky is still young for an orca female in the natural world. In the wild, Corky would be a young mother with perhaps two or three offspring and at least a decade of reproductive life ahead. In captivity, Corky has been pregnant 7 times. None of her offspring survived more than a few weeks. Corky's life as a captive has been very hard. In 1989 she was attacked by another female, who died in the assault. Lethal violence is unknown in free orca!

In the wild, Corky's family, the "A5" pod, has survived and grown. Today it has 14 members, one of whom is Corky's mother... now 47 years old. I believe Corky has a chance to return to her true family and enjoy her remaining days with them. I also believe that helping her do this will be a healing act on the part of humanity... a way of returning to Corky and her family some of the debt that is owed for damage done. The return will not be easy. First, Corky must be proven healthy. Then, carefully, Corky will be moved to a "half-way house" where she will still be captive but in the ocean and in touch with her family & other free orca. Only when Corky is ready... when she can feed herself with live fish and when there are clear signs of communication and acceptance... will Corky be set free. Afterwards, we will watch carefully what follows, and hope. No-one knows for sure what Corky's fate will be. No long-term orca captives have been freed, but dolphin captives have succeeded... so why not Corky? I just believe she deserves a chance and that we should give it to her.

Corky faces one huge obstacle that is the reason for this chain letter. It is the American company Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser beer and owners of Sea World in San Diego, California... where Corky is incarcerated. They refuse to give Corky a chance to win a new life for herself and her family.

Here's what you can do to help Corky:

Here's the bottom line for Corky. Time is running out. If we do nothing, one day soon Corky will take her last breath and sink to the bottom of her concrete tank. A great chance, for Corky, and her family, and for the cause of freedom everywhere, will have been lost. Please don't delay. Please, act today!

For Corky, I thank you.

Paul Spong.

ps: I started an earlier chain letter for Corky several years ago... don't worry if you sent that one on before, please send this one on too!!

Further information: FREE CORKY! P.O. Box 9191, San Diego, CA 92169 U.S.A. Fax: (619)488-578


Corky is a killer whale held captive in Sea World, San Diego. For the past 28 years, Corky has been walked on, ridden on, climbed over, and made to perform foolish tricks in order to obtain food frozen fish. How different this world of concrete, frozen food, and thousands of gawking people aiming their cameras is from Corky's true home. If she had not been captured at the age of four, she would be living in the waters off the northern shore of Vancouver Island with her family group, the A5 pod. Beautiful islands, forests, mountains, and waters are home where for thousands of years orcas have lived in their nuclear and extended families that we call pods. At the heart of the family is the mother. Her children, even her adult sons, stay together throughout life. Only death -- or capture -- breaks this bond. Here, for the past 28 years, Dr. Paul Spong has been studying the orca pods who pass by his home on Hanson Island, British Columbia, Canada. A physiological psychologist, Paul was something of an academic prodigy when he first began his research at the Vancouver Public Aquarium in 1967. His subject was the first killer whale to ever survive captivity, Skana. Paul discovered she was extremely intelligent, curious, dexterous, and possessed a sense of humor. As Paul gained a deeper understanding of her intellect and sensitivity, he fought for her freedom, arguing that holding her in a small pen was inhumane. This argument got him fired. After Skana's death, she was ground into pet food. Paul then convinced the University of British Columbia to back a field station. There, he observed the remarkable cooperative social behavior of orcas and their highly evolved communication. Language is a key element of the pods, with each member sharing the same unique dialect. Pods with very similar dialects belong to the same clan. For many years, Paul, along with other environmentalists, has been pressing for Corky's release. Sea World is owned by Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser beer. Paul has met with Sea World officials at San Antonio, Texas to discuss Corky and try and establish a common ground. September 30, 1991 was fixed as a deadline for positive action from Sea World. Unfortunately, efforts at diplomacy and friendly argument failed to persuade Sea World of the benefits they could reap from Corky's release.

One of the arguments posed is orca longevity. Sea World represents that 35 years is the maximum life span of an orca. Scientific evidence to the contrary is irrefutable and we know that orcas live to the age of 70 and beyond in the wild. In captivity, Corky is reaching old age with little life left to live. Lack of exercise, poor diet, and emotional stress, all shorten the life of a captive orca. As Paul so eloquently states, "What orcas are displaying in these tanks is a caricature of the real orca -- almost a shadow -- when you consider what the orca is like in the ocean." Corky has given birth to seven calves, all of whom have died. Her mate, Orky, died 18 months after the pair was transferred from defunct Marineland to Sea World. In a freak accident, Corky was attacked by another female, Kandu, who perished in the assault. Never before has such an bizarre event been witnessed in orca history anywhere. Another argument for Corky's release is that her pod is intact and A23, believed to be her mother, is still alive. Paul has offered to obtain skin tissue from A23 in order to verify the relationship but Dan Odell, Sea World research biologist, suggested the science of genetic fingerprinting is not that precise. In a rare breach of unity on the Sea World side, Bob Gault, president, Sea World California, seemed somewhat interested in the possibility of verification. Whether or not A23 is her mother, there is good reason to believe she could integrate back into her family unit. Corky still speaks her pod's dialect, although she has learned some Icelandic from her fellow captives.

A pre-release training program would be carefully set up to ensure that Corky could be self-sufficient prior to release. Pre-training in a tank would demonstrate if she could catch live fish. If so, thereafter she could be moved to a "halfway house." (Ric O'Barry, director of the Dolphin Project, has successfully retrained and released two bottlenose dolphins, Joe and Rosie.) A halfway house could be built in Freshwater Bay, British Columbia, which is adjacent to the main summertime route of the pods which frequent the area, A5 pod among them. Two different holding areas have been designed. On shore would be quarters for a crew of Corky's old trainers and friends, a veterinarian, and lab for selected scientists and documentary teams. Sea World claims Corky could not survive in the wild. Life at Sea World is in doubt as well. Eight orcas have died at Sea World facilities in the past five years. Since 1965, 19 orcas have died on Sea World premises, an average of nearly one a year.

The Humane Society of the United States has urged a moratorium on permits for Sea World, and asked the government to determine why so many orcas are dying. Several years ago, pregnant killer whale died at their facility in Orlando, Florida, one of four Sea Worlds in the United States. Corky's release would be followed around the world. Sea World has stated they fear condemnation if Corky dies after return, but her death in captivity is not that far away. Let us see then if being released could return her to good health. Sea World would be praised for letting her return to her family and die in the waters where she was born. Dr. Spong has offered to have a third party review the reasons he and other scientists believe Corky could be released and the reasons Sea World believes it is not feasible. Sea World has not agreed. Paul's plea for Corky follows.

Corky is Dying...

by Dr. Paul Spong

When I last visited Corky at Sea World in San Diego, I felt very hopeful for her, for the success of our plan to return Corky to her family. She seemed energetic, she was still the star of the show, her dorsal fin still stood straight up and down, and she seemed to be on friendly terms with the other Icelandic orcas with whom she shares her tanks.

Of course, I was still very concerned for her -- after all she has already been confined behind concrete walls for 28 years -- but I truly believed that Corky would succeed in becoming the first captive orca to return to her family. I knew we couldn't relax, and that we had to keep increasing the pressure from people calling for her release. But I felt we had time, and that Corky's owners (Anheuser-Busch) would finally see that our dream for Corky would come true.

Now, I'm very much afraid that we're going to be too late.

Recently Sea World filed a report with the government indicating Corky's health is poor. We knew Corky wasn't in great shape, but her health is deteriorating. Corky is out of time.

There's just one chance left. Corky must come home this summer. That might seem an impossibility but I don't think so. If Anheuser-Busch agrees to send Corky home soon (early July), there's still time. We need two months to prepare her for the journey. If she could be in a "half-way house" by late August, that would give her at least two months to learn the things she needs to know (like catching live fish) before she is let go. Through November, there will be other orcas in the neighborhood to encourage her and keep her going. Corky's family, the A5 pod, will be there too Whether Corky will survive over the long term we can't say, but we know her time is short anyway. Who can doubt that it would be far better for her to die hearing the sounds of the sea and the calls of her own kind, then to simply sink onto a concrete floor, becoming just another bleak Sea World statistic?

Corky needs to return home, and she can, but this is her last chance!

I know you want to help. Today, please send a short personal letter to the chairman of Anheuser-Busch, Mr. August Busch III, Grants Farm, 10501 Gravois Road, St. Louis MO 63123. Ask him to send Corky home. If you're a beer drinker (even if you're not), tell him Bud's out 'till Corky's out! Then send a copy of this to at least two of your friends and ask them to write a letter too. Conceivably, he could receive over a million pieces of mail. That should get his attention!. Form letter-writing parties at your office or home. Please help.

We can do it. Corky can come home.

For Corky, I thank you.

Dr. Spong, OrcaLab, Alert Bay, B.C. Canada Dr. Spong is a member of Save The Whales scientific Advisory Committee.


There are many ways you can help Corky. We already know you want to help her... and we can't stress the urgency of Corky's situation enough. She is literally living on borrowed time. Please do what you can, but whatever you do, please start right away!

Thank you, so much, for caring about Corky... and for everything you can do to help her!!!!!

FREE CORKY! P.O. BOX 9191, SAN DIEG0, CA. 92169; FAX: (619)488-5783


There are 4 Sea Worlds in the United States: California, Ohio, Texas, Florida

Since 1965, 20 Orcas have died on Sea World Premises (Out of 33 captives).

Nine Orcas have died at their hands in the past 5 years.

Sea World's claim that Orcas live to a maximum age of 35 in the wild has been refuted by a recent scientific report which suggests that females have an average lifespan of 60-70 years and even older. A 59 year old female in orcas studied off the state of Washington for 17 years, gave birth several years ago. Even one of Sea World's competitors (Marine World Africa, USA) in California mentions in their brochure that orcas live to between 50-70 years.

Anheuser-Busch (owners of Sea World) and Sea World itself, continue to mislead the public over the Corky Project by sending out letters and statements which are simply untrue.

Scientists have offered to have DNA testing done of Corky's assumed mother A23, a member of the A5 Pod in British Columbia waters. Sea World has countered that genetic fingerprinting isn't that precise.

Sea World ignores the fact that orcas come from family units that speak different languages. Their orcas are mixed and matched without regard to their background.


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