Kina the false killer whale to move to Oahu ma­rine park

The Washington Times Daily - - AMERICAN SCENE - BY CALEB JONES

WAIMANALO, HAWAII | Com­pared with other ma­rine mam­mals, 40-year-old Kina has lived a par­tic­u­larly wind­ing and high-pro­file life.

She went from the open ocean off Ja­pan, to a Hong Kong amuse­ment park, to a clas­si­fied U.S. Navy pro­gram, to a Hawaii re­search lab. Along the way, stud­ies us­ing the false killer whale — a dark-gray mem­ber of the dol­phin fam­ily with a big, round beak — led to ma­jor dis­cov­er­ies on whale hear­ing and aided in the de­vel­op­ment of mil­i­tary sonar.

“The work that [re­searchers] have done over the years is quite valu­able, and cer­tainly ground­break­ing,” said Robin Baird, a ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist with the non­profit Cas­ca­dia Re­search Col­lec­tive, a sci­en­tific and ed­u­ca­tion group based in Olympia, Washington.

Now, Kina is again mak­ing waves, this time with her lat­est move to an Oahu ma­rine park.

An­i­mal-rights ac­tivists say the 13-foot-long, toothy mam­mal and her cap­tive com­pan­ions de­serve peace­ful re­tire­ments but in­stead are be­ing trau­ma­tized as tourist at­trac­tions con­fined to con­crete tanks.

But Kina’s han­dlers main­tain she is in ex­cel­lent care, re­ceiv­ing the best food, vet­eri­nary at­ten­tion and stim­u­lat­ing train­ing, all while con­tin­u­ing to con­trib­ute to im­por­tant science. And park of­fi­cials say she won’t take part in any ac­ro­batic shows like other dol­phins in their care.

Kina’s journey started in the wild more than 30 years ago, when she was cap­tured dur­ing a Ja­panese dol­phin hunt. She is be­lieved to be the last liv­ing an­i­mal in the U.S. from that now-widely con­demned fish­ery. The fish­er­men sold her to a Hong Kong amuse­ment park, where the U.S. Navy ac­quired her in 1987.

For the next six years, the Navy used Kina for clas­si­fied re­search on sonar, the use of sound to com­mu­ni­cate, ma­neu­ver and de­tect ob­jects un­der­wa­ter. It kept her at a Ma­rine base on Oahu’s Ka­neohe Bay, the largest shel­tered body of wa­ter in the main Hawai­ian Is­lands.

When that pro­gram ended, Kina went to a Univer­sity of Hawaii lab on Co­conut Is­land, also in Ka­neohe Bay, where her science ca­reer con­tin­ued for more than 20 years. She took part in echolo­ca­tion stud­ies that some­day could lessen the im­pacts of hu­man­made ocean noise on ma­rine wildlife.

But the univer­sity was spend­ing nearly $1 mil­lion a year to care for Kina in an ocean pen. So in 2015, amid se­ri­ous fund­ing prob­lems, the school was forced to auc­tion off Kina and her two dol­phin com­pan­ions.

Sea Life Park, a fam­ily at­trac­tion just out­side Honolulu, put in the high­est bid, and the trio has been liv­ing there, back­stage, ever since.

An­i­mal-rights ac­tivists blasted the move as in­hu­mane. Some re­cently led an on­line “#Jus­ticeForKina” cam­paign to ex­press their con­cerns about her con­fine­ment at the park, which they say causes phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress.

Jeff Pawloski, Kina’s trainer at the Navy lab 30 years ago and now Sea Life Park’s cu­ra­tor, said the cam­paign has led to a lot of mis­in­for­ma­tion.

For in­stance, the park boasts daily dol­phin shows and al­lows vis­i­tors — those will­ing to pay a pre­mium price — the chance to swim with the dol­phins. Mr. Pawloski says that won’t hap­pen with Kina. In­stead, he hopes his old “friend” will help ed­u­cate the pub­lic about how her re­search aids wild an­i­mals.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Kina, a 40-year-old false killer whale, has con­trib­uted to science for the past 30 years is again mak­ing waves af­ter be­ing sold to the ma­rine amuse­ment park.

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