10 min read

Dear Kiska, I'm sorry ...

<p> Kaitlin Paquette Drapeau, September 10, 2015 </p>

Dear Kiska, I'm sorry it took me so long to write. That is not the kind of thing that a friend should do.

I do not mean to make excuses but after our last visit I needed some time to process.

You see Kiska, I cannot believe you are still at Marineland. I cannot believe that those of us living in Ontario have not decided that Marineland is corrupt.

I know that that is a harsh word to use. I do not use it lightly. When I came to see you I stopped to see some of your captive friends along the way.

I saw the seals. I saw the seals with their tiny tank and poor excuses for toys. I saw the milky glazed over eyes that spoke of their captivity induced blindness. I even watched one of your friends swim right into a floating toy and startle at the impact.

My stomach in knots I continued toward you.

Did you know that Marineland has not changed in years?

The buildings, the gardens, and the enclosures. All of Marineland appears frozen in time. The colours of the buildings are the same. The rides are the same. I watched the lady bug roller coaster zip by. It brought me back to being a child and sitting on that ride with my Dad. I am sorry that we did not know then what we know now.

I searched high and low for a shred of evidence of upgrades in the park. I searched in vain. I had held hope on the drive to see you that I would find evidence of change. That maybe if money had been spent on the Park itself it would also have been spent looking after you.

I carried on. I am sweating in the sun, and nauseous. At any second I fear I may be sick. You see Kiska, when I was 13 I vowed never to come back to one of these places. Never to justify the existence of them with my money or time. I made this vow the last time you and I spoke. When I was 13 I leaned over the side of your tank and watched you swimming around in circles.

I do not know what happened or what came over me. Your frantic and anxious laps hit home. We have all felt caged before, trapped by our circumstances, but it hit me hard. You never asked for this.

Thirteen years later I had to come back to see you. You have haunted by memories and thoughts for over a dozen years.

I saw your beluga friends next. They were frolicking with each other in the bright hot September sun. I searched for a sun shade. Somewhere they could escape the rays. I found nothing. The only escape is to totally submerge themselves in the pools of glass and concrete. They were covered in marks. Long scratches that have marred their skin and left scars as evidence. I know these are rakes. I have read too many articles to not recognize them. These marks are de riguer in captivity. I hear one of your caretakers brush off an anxious guests' inquiry. To Marineland rakes are merely the whale equivalent of a human paper cut. The caretaker went on to further state with all the blubber the whales probably do not feel a thing. I stared incredulously at this man.

-SPEAK, ARGUE, RAGE - my mind yelled. Yet I was frozen.

I circled the corner for what awaited me. At last I had reached you Kiska. Beautiful and majestic you. Gorgeous in your black and white. The moment I laid eyes on you was loaded with grief and also wonder. You are a true survivor.

I was dismayed to find you still doing laps. I talked to you while you swam. I took what must have been a hundred photos. Photos for what I ask myself now.

Photos that show your twisting and dilapidated dorsal. Photos that show an indentation clearly near your blowhole. Photos to remember you by.

In our hours together a few people came and went. I stood like a vigil, rooted to my spot. I had no idea my next move.

I listened to your "trainers" tell guests that you like eating gelatin. To me it seems you have no choice. Your lovely orca smile is missing your pearly whites. Your caretakers should play dodge-ball professionally. They dodged all the heavy questions, and skated by with quick dismissive answers.

They dismissed your small weight, brushed off the fact that you are all alone, and never are the children you have lost brought up.

Kiska, what have we done?

How did we get this far?

I cried when I left you. Tears streamed down my face.

While I was standing alone watching you, you treated me to an amazing gift. You pulled yourself out of the water onto the platform beside me. You stared right into my eyes. One intelligent being to the next.

I saw you then, and I see you now. May this letter serve as proof that I have not forgotten you. I never will. I never could.

Be strong a little longer Kiska. I know that is a lot to ask of you. You have been patient with us humans longer than we deserve. Sometimes we are a little slow on the uptake, but I remain hopeful that with the help of others your situation can be changed.

- your friend Kaitlin- Justice for Kiska and the other animals of Marineland starts with all of us today. Even the small steps we take today can grow. Help me by sharing this letter and boycotting Marineland. It's time for a change.