Ten years ago, Springer (A73), an orphaned killer whale from Canada, brought together scientists, government officials, advocacy groups, and concerned citizens in a dramatic and moving rescue effort.
Last evening, the Vancouver Aquarium and whale conservation partners from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Orphaned Orca Fund celebrated the 10th anniversary of the successful recovery and release of Springer, the first wild killer whale ever rescued. Vancouver Aquarium played an integral role in Springer’s successful recovery, along with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, DFO, and community and advocacy organizations.
The evening began with a heartwarming six-minute video that told the story of Springer’s rescue. Created by Mark Miller, who captured the entire rescue on tape ten years ago, the video demonstrated the single-mindedness of various organizations, agencies and individuals working towards a common goal – restoring Springer’s life.
A panel composed of key players in Springer’s rescue from the Vancouver Aquarium, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and the Orphaned Orca Fund provided first-hand accounts of the rescue and recovery from their perspectives.
Included in the panel were (from left to right): Dr. Dave Huff, former Aquarium veterinarian who played an instrumental role in restoring Springer back to health; Marilyn Joyce, former marine mammal coordinator for DFO; Donna Sandstrom, executive director of the Whale Trail; Clint Wright, the Aquarium’s senior vice president of operations and general manager; Mark Miller, the primary videographer who captured the entire effort on tape a decade ago; and Lance Barrett-Lennard, the Aquarium’s senior marine mammal scientist.
Springer was rescued near Seattle on June 12, 2002, and was rehabilitated in a holding pen in Manchester, Washington. One month later, on July 13, Springer was transported from Washington to a holding pen in Johnstone Strait. On July 14 she was returned to the wild to reunite with her pod as it swam by the release site.
Since then, the Aquarium and its partners have monitored Springer’s whereabouts and well-being. Today Springer is in good health and is fully integrated with other wild killer whales, demonstrating both the resiliency of her species and the power of people working together for a good cause.
The ongoing monitoring of Springer’s health and safety is one small part of much larger research efforts that take place at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Cetacean Research Lab, which is committed to supporting cetacean conservation. These research efforts are supported in part by the Vancouver Aquarium Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program, which has funded groundbreaking research that has helped to protect the killer whale population and its habitat since 1992. This year, the adoption program celebrates its 20th anniversary in supporting killer whale research and conservation. Wild killer whales can be adopted at killerwhale.org.