Monday, October 28, 2013

Marine mammals in captivity

CNN is showing the documentary Blackfish, about captive orcas used in Sea World and other marine parks for entertainment. It's disturbing but worth seeing. Sea World refused to talk for film, but responded to the film here. Scroll down to the Comments, where Naomi Rose, the Humane Society of the U.S. staff marine scientist, responds to Sea World's statements.

The film illustrates conditions that are an important reason I'm an elephant seal docent at a natural rookery. Piedras Blancas is free, always open to the public, held in trust by the people of California for the people and wildlife of the world. Welcoming people and introducing them to the seals, and an unstructured experience outdoors with wildlife, is the best way I can think of to counteract corporate ownership of our entertainment and the idea that these animals can be owned and caged.

The best response to captive animals is not to patronize these establishments. Some day we'll look at them with the revulsion we feel for Nazi concentration camps.

On a lighter note, lots of seals are enjoying the beach now:

 These are all juveniles, although some are much bigger than others. Better hunters, I guess!
 The young males tussle with each other. Mothers of teenage boys always find this instantly recognizable.
 This young seal is probably six or seven years old, judging by the size of his nose (technically, proboscis).
Her's a side view. The nose starts to grow when the seal is about five years old, so it's a rough estimate of age during those years. Male seals are considered mature at age eight, but probably are not dominant enough to mate until they are twelve.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

California Condors

Piedras Blancas has lots of wildlife other than elephant seals. It's not far from the Big Sur wilderness, where California Condors have been released. I met Susan Foreman Lewis last week, who owns a local clock and doll business, Once Upon A Tyme, and loves condors. She sent these beautiful pictures, which she took.

 Perhaps the large elephant seals could be prey objects, food for condors. They feed on the carcases of large animals. None has ever been seen on the beach, but some day one might find its way there, if there were a dead animal on the beach. That doesn't happen often, but occasionally one dies on the beach.

 Wingspan can be 10 feet and they can soar up to 15,000 feet high. They may travel 150 miles a day in search of food.

 The captive-raised birds are released to the wild. After the population fell to fewer than three dozen birds in the 1970s, researchers captured all they could and brought them into a captive breeding program. When the wild population continued to decline, they captured the last 10 birds in 1987 and brought them into the program. They are gradually being released to establish a wild population. Today, 127 condors live in the wild.

 This youngster is one of them. "Too cute," says Susan.
California Condors survive in a difficult world. Lead poisoning from firearm ammunition poisons them. Legislation could make California lead-free, which may help.

The arrival of elephant seals on the Central Coast could attract condors. These magnificent birds are at the top of the food chain. I've never seen one, but I look forward to the day when one glides silently onto the beach before my astonished eyes.

You can watch the condors on the live web cam any time.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beach boys

 Lots of juveniles on the beach!
 They enjoy trying their fighting moves out on each other, in the water and on land.
 Someone asked me to estimate how many seals on the beach today. I thought at least a thousand.
 They do look peaceful when they're asleep.
 A couple are large individuals, but when you get a look at the development of the nose, they look no more than seven years old.
This seal demonstrates his ability to bend his spine almost in a circle.