This is the first post in a new series spotlighting the lives of individual captive orcas. By sharing their stories we can raise awareness of the terrible injustices they face, and strengthen the fight to end this cruelty.
Corky, also known as A16, is a female orca born to the A5 pod of Northern Resident orcas in British Columbia, Canada. She was cruelly ripped away from her family on 11th December 1969 in Pender Harbour, at the age of four. Firstly she was sold to Marineland of the Pacific in California, where they named her Corky 2, after an orca of that name who died at the park in 1970. She is now living, or rather held prisoner at, SeaWorld in San Diego where she has been since 1987. Corky is the oldest and longest kept captive orca, having now been imprisoned for 51 years.
Corky lived with a male orca called Orky for seventeen years. Orky was captured in Pender Harbour the year before Corky, and is possibly from the same pod. Corky holds the dubious honour of being the first orca to produce a calf in captivity. Her first calf died after just 18 days as he would not nurse. Corky and Orky had seven calves together, none of whom survived to adulthood. The oldest was just a month and a half old.
Orky also fathered calves with a female called Kandu, one of whom – Orkid – is still alive today. Kandu was a dominant female who’s end was traumatic – she charged at Corky and slammed into her, rupturing an artery in her jaw and bleeding to death. These two orcas had an antagonistic relationship and Kandu often attacked Corky. This kind of aggressive behaviour does not occur in the wild, and is a product of the unnatural situation captivity presents. Kandu was an Icelandic orca and her path would never have crossed with Corky’s in the wild. Kandu’s calf, Orkid, was not even a year old at the time of her mother’s death, and was placed with Corky as a surrogate mother. Orky died in 1988, just a few days after the birth of Orkid.
Twelve other orcas from Corky’s pod were also captured in 1968-69. She is the only one of them still alive. Her pod is thriving in the wild and now numbers thirteen individuals, including her sister A43/Ripple and brother A60/Fife, both of whom she has never met. Corky’s mother, A23/Stripe, sadly died in 2000. You can adopt Fife as part of Whale and Dolphin Conservation‘s adopt a dolphin scheme, helping raise money to protect orcas and their ocean home.
A sea sanctuary off Hanson Island has been proposed for Corky’s release, but the current situation is that SeaWorld won’t let her go, claiming she would not survive. We won’t stop fighting for her release, however! Follow Against Captivity on Facebook for more information on the fight to end captivity and how you can help.
Photo from OrcaLab