A champion for orcas convincingly spells out the threats to their survival, their misery in captivity, and what scientists can learn by studying them.
At the outset of this compelling book, Seattle-based journalist Neiwert (The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, 2009, etc.) plainly states, “captivity has been a catastrophe for most killer whales taken from the wild.” Unfortunately, he writes, “you will never, ever hear about the endangered population of killer whales" at the marine parks where they are doggedly trained to perform acrobatic stunts. (Readers might be shocked to learn just how popular these destinations are: in 2012, marine parks such as SeaWorld drew more visitors than attendance at Major League Baseball, NFL, and NBA games combined.) The author’s main focuses are the ethical concerns about orca captivity and breeding, but he also emphasizes the immense value of scientific research. Killer whales’ value largely derives from the fact that they "have been the supreme creature in the ocean for about six million years”; these big-brained marine mammals are "the oceanic counterpart to humans." Neiwert adroitly weaves several intriguing Native American legends that honor the whales' power and the natural world into his discussion of the critical role of modern evolutionary science. He probes the difficulties in discovering "just how intelligent” the orcas are and highlights many traits worthy of extensive study, including their communication methods and socialization among families and pods. This narrative is perhaps a bit long but accessible and persuasive. The author authoritatively presents his facts and will likely inspire readers to share what they've learned from his call to action to ensure the orcas' survival. His tone isn't alarmist or strident, but his message is urgent.
A wide-ranging, interesting book that should be required reading for school-aged environmentalists.