Today marks the 42nd anniversary of Corky’s capture. Her life began in the waters off British Columbia, but when she was 4 years old she was taken from her mother and put into a swimming pool at Marineland of the Pacific. There, she lived with Orky, another killer whale captured only a year earlier. They became the stars of the park, being trained to perform tricks for the public. Like all whales, they were trained with food control.
“The difference came after the whale’s first performance was below par. When Orky returned to me for his reward, I refused to feed him (any good trainer knows that poor performance is not rewarded.) The whale shrieked angrily and jerked his head at lightning-quick speed. I was petrified. His left eye (whales generally look at us with one eye at a time) opened wide, showing its bloodshot white. The red eye, as we call it, signals anger, sometimes surprise. The behaviorist in me overruled and I forked over the fish… I was trained to either ignore his outburst or, when I gained more confidence, show anger in return by having him do several tricks without reward. There will always be those times when Orky is highly emotional…he then forces the trainer into disciplinary action. Having the session end and losing out on half the days food is the most severe penalty.” – Tim Desmond Marineland of the Pacific Trainer 1
Both whales had violent incidents. Orky has pinned trainers to the bottom of the tanks, and as gentle as Corky is, she too has been known to block trainers from leaving the pool, and
throwing temper tantrums: pushing against the tank walls and squirting water.
As testy as they were with trainers, Orky and Corky were great companions, and coming from the same pod, were probably relatives. That didn’t stop them from having 7 calves, 2 of which were born dead and 5 died in infancy. Corky’s lack of mothering skills showed when she had trouble nursing her offspring, and began to violently attack her 4th calf. Which was taken from her by trainers and put into a separate pool where it died. After the death of her calves, Corky exhibited depressing behavior. Swimming idly near the windows of the pool, looking out in anguish.
Marineland was bought by Seaworld in 1987. Both Orky and Corky were moved to San Diego. Orky, having a violent background, was bought and used for his sperm which was worth millions to Seaworld’s breeding program. He fathered two calves at Seaworld, Orkid and Kayla. In 1988, three days after Orkid’s birth, Orky died from chronic wasting. He and Corky had spent 17 long years together.
Corky currently lives at Seaworld. Campaigns for her release began in the ’90s and still continue today. If you’re interested in what you can do to help Corky, visit the Free Corky Campaign website for more information.