Inuk man supports 'Blackfish' movement to free whales

Sakiasie Sowdluapik, a former Nunavut wildlife officer, is applauding a call to remove whales from captivity sparked by the 2013 anti-SeaWorld film ‘Blackfish.’
Tilikum performs at SeaWorld in a scene from 'Blackfish.' The 2013 documentary argues that deaths and injuries of trainers are proof that orcas in captivity are under stress and should be freed. (Blackfish)

Groups on Canada's West Coast are campaigning to take whales and sea mammals out of captivity, and at least one former conservation officer from Nunavut agrees with them.

Sakiasie Sowdluapik says there's a big difference between the well-being of animals in the wild and those kept in cages and tanks or behind fences. (Emily Ridlington/CBC)
​Sakiasie Sowdluapik is from Pangnirtung, Nunavut.

He spent 17 years as a park warden with Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island and 15 years as a wildlife officer.

He says he's visited zoos and aquariums and agrees wildlife doesn't belong there.

Sowdluapik says there's a big difference between the well-being of animals in the wild and those kept in cages and tanks or behind fences.

“The overall appearance should be good, and not look like it's suffering,” he said in Inuktitut. “Not kept in a very hot place and in clean water and a much better diet.”

Inuit have long argued against keeping polar bears in captivity, especially in warm southern locations.

Sowdluapik says wild animals were not meant to be confined and he supports any groups or individuals trying to get them released.

‘Blackfish’ controversy

Protests have taken place around the Vancouver Aquarium following the wide release of the 2013 documentary ‘Blackfish.’

'Blackfish' tells the story of Tilikum and makes the case that deaths and injuries of trainers at SeaWorld is proof the animals are under stress and the shows must stop. (Blackfish)
It tells the story of Tilikum, an orca who was captured off the coast of Iceland at age two and has since been involved in the deaths of three people.

The documentary makes the case that his life in captivity was inhumane from the beginning, to the point of inflicting psychological damage, and points out that no aggression towards humans has ever been documented by orcas in the wild.

Tilikum is still in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando.

Earlier this month, the California legislature began debating a bill that would ban sea-park whale shows. SeaWorld has 10 orcas in captivity in that state.

Supporters of the bill insist orcas are too large and too intelligent to live in captivity.

Just days after the bill was introduced, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he’d like to see dolphins and belugas kept at the Vancouver Aquarium released.

The Vancouver Aquarium is currently in the process of expanding and defends its practices.

The aquarium says their whale program is about conservation, and it's the only facility in Canada that can rehabilitate whales unfit for the wild.


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