Readers' responses: The death of an orca

The story of an orca mother pushing her dead calf for more than a week has prompted reactions from around the world.

The Times Colonist asked readers for their thoughts. Here is a selection of the responses we received by email and through a web questionnaire.

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From the web

How has the story of the mother orca affected you?

This has brought to the forefront that these mammals experience loss and pain deeply, as we do. As human beings, we have no right to do what we wish to the Earth to the extent that we cause consequences such as this: an animal experiencing profound grief because we have left this environment unable to support her carrying and nurturing her young, and in the long term, this species continuing to exist.

Joceyln, Saanich

Not at all.

Don J., Sooke

Profoundly. It wakes me up at night.

Elise Schopper-Brigel, Victoria

I feel deep sadness and empathy for these incredible animals. And I’m ashamed that humans are failing so badly to coexist with the world beyond humans.

Melanie Kilpatrick, Saanich

What a pleasant, carefree time and place we must live in to allow our minds to drift and dream about how this whale is just like us.

Phil Caldwell, Victoria

It makes me want to throw up.

Shel Greb, Victoria

This is very sad. Feels like a tragedy in your own family. I am very proud of having orcas in our back yard as a B.C. resident. It’s sad we are not prioritizing taking care of them over financial gains.

Rohit, Victoria

People should be more aware that cruise ships and future tanker traffic, as well as sewage, will eliminate our orcas. The mother orca is showing us what we have done.

Anita Bailly, Nanaimo

What do you think should be done, if anything, to help southern resident orcas?

We need to look at what we can do to reduce the harm we have done so that this species (and others) can thrive again. How do we stop limiting their food supply? Is there any way to reduce the damage done already? Once identified, we need to stop talking and make the necessary changes. I’m beginning to think those with the ability to make change just talk about it. Words don’t mean much, actions do. How about people start putting their money where their mouth is and do something once the needs are identified?

Jocelyn, Saanich


Otto, Sidney

Further restrict all chinook salmon fishing, stricter enforcement with penalties of 200-metre restriction on whale-watching boats and immediately enact emergency order under Species at Risk Act for southern resident orcas.

Elise Schopper-Brigel, Victoria

Everything should be done to help southern resident orcas and our ecosystem.

The ban on fishing in certain areas is a start, but it’s clear we waited until the 11th hour. That’s not good enough. We need to take preemptive actions to make a positive impact before we see more catastrophic results in our environment. Also, we have to say no to more shipping lanes and moving heavy oil through our fragile ecosystem.

Melanie Kilpatrick, Saanich

Close the salmon fisheries.

Shel Greb, Victoria

Fewer, not more, cruise ships and fewer, not more, tankers. Sewage treatment facilities.

Anita Bailly, Nanaimo

The southern resident orcas are of great public concern primarily because they’re perfect poster children for everything enviro-political, not because, of all the many many places the species live, this one happens to be extra special.

Phil Caldwell, Victoria

List them as endangered, as I have not seen a sustainable birthrate in the past decade.

Rohit, Victoria

Clean up the Puget Sound. There are about 60-odd treatment plants dumping into their local rivers. It has been documented that the local resident whales are the most polluted in the world,which affects their reproductive system. How can they reproduce?Canada must spend more money on hatcheries. Without the U.S. hatcheries, we would have hardly any salmon here. Canada’s involvement in salmon reproduction is embarrassing; what we do have is run almost entirely by volunteers.

Ken Evans, Saanich

What questions do you have about orcas in the Salish Sea?

What can we do effectively on a daily basis as private citizens to save them and how to get folks involved to support implementing measures?

Elise Schopper-Brigel, Victoria

What are the population counts in the past 40 years?

Shel Greb, Victoria

What will it take to list them as endangered?

Rohit, Victoria

Do we really want a dead Salish Sea? What can ordinary residents do about it?

Anita Bailly, Nanaimo

I would like to know what actions will strongly affect the population in a positive way and what top five initiatives can be done now to help support the orcas population.

Melanie Kilpatrick, Saanich

Anything else you would like to add?

We hold their lives in our hands. I believe we will act wisely. Thank you for bringing this heart-wrenching issue to the public forum.

Elise Schopper-Brigel, Victoria

How do you know the mother was “grieving”?

Phil Caldwell, Victoria

If they are starving (which I doubt), they would move on to where the food is. They don’t stay here in the winter due to the scarcity of large salmon, but no one knows where they go.Chinook predation by marine animals (seals and sea lions) has increased three-fold since the 1970s, taking up to 50 per cent of juvenile stock.

Ken Evans, Saanich

What does it take for the government to protect us and our oceans? When will they keep the promises they made to get elected, if ever?

Anita Bailly, Nanaimo

From email

I have done what we should all do: Stop eating salmon until all their babies stop dying.

Shelly Hunter, Victoria

Let the mother grieve as she is doing. Keep the boats and onlookers at a distance. It’s a natural process and she should be given the same respect as humans expect. If she leaves it in a place that is accessible to humans, the scientists should take samples of tissue, etc. and leave the body where she left it.

Respect is lacking in the world for humans and all animals, this gives a worldwide opportunity to show how we should treat the animals. Looking, seeing and taking pictures should not be a right. These animals are fighting for existence in the water amongst, plastic, sewage, garbage, large freighters, ships, etc. At the least, we should not allow harassment.

Christina Hunt

Without the age of social media, drones and the like, these resident orcas would continue on with their “normal” animal behaviours out of our sight, much as they have since the beginning of their time in the Salish Sea.

They don’t need us to put our human thoughts and feelings upon them, nor do they need our human interference. They need to be left alone by tour companies, by those who don’t heed DFO warnings and restrictions by increased tanker traffic.

What we can do to make their lives easier or perhaps less threatened? Do our damnedest to ensure there is an ample food supply for them to feed upon

And if they are feeling whale things, that’s called animal behaviour and it is, quite simply, what animals “do.”

M.K. Riske, Victoria

Everyone who sees a healthy whale feels awe and joy. They are such magnificent beings who do no harm even in the midst of constant harassment, be it from whale-watching boats, from humans tossing their plastic bottles and garbage into oceans, from fish farms affecting migrating salmon, from effects of environmental degradation, or from noise pollution and frequencies that adversely affect whales own frequencies to communicate.

I think whales should be considered “persons” under the human rights code and given the right to food and to life in a safe and clean ocean.

We are so blessed to have these mammals in our waters, and everything possible should be done to protect and nurture these very special relations.

Laura Finch, Mill Bay

I weep for the beautiful creature in her terrible grief. Thank God the rest of her pod, and her other calf, are rallying round to make sure she is eating.

I am still weeping as I write this. We have to do something to help our beautiful orcas before we destroy them — having decimated them with our overfishing, our delinquent marine traffic and our undersea noise pollution. If her loving behaviour isn’t enough of a brilliant example of our persistent ignorance and carelessness, what is?

Please let her dead calf and her sorrow be a lesson to us all.

Thank you to the Times Colonist for covering this story so sensitively.

Ann Logan, View Royal

We dare not face having to explain to our grandchildren that we just watched as the orcas starved and their offspring died.

Barbara Girard

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