A few weeks ago, when we were preparing to visit Srednyaya Bay in Russia to assess the condition of the 97 orcas and beluga whales who had been captured for sale to marine entertainment parks, one of the organizations who offered to post information on their social media pages about this mission was the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF).
We greatly appreciated the gesture and the ensuing response from many of their followers. And we’d like, in turn, to introduce you to the latest initiative of the LDF. It’s the Global Deal for Nature, a major effort to protect as much as possible of our planet and all the living creatures who are under threat these days.
The Global Deal for Nature is the first undertaking that’s backed by the most up-to-date science to establish science-based conservation targets for the entire planet – terrestrial, freshwater and marine – in order to protect life on Earth. It’s a bold and urgent venture that involves restoring at least 50 percent of the world’s land and oceans over the next 30 years.
A bold and urgent venture that involves restoring at least 50 percent of the world’s land and oceans.Our participation relates directly to our own mission of bringing an end to keeping orcas and beluga whales in captivity and supporting rescue and rehabilitation efforts in the wild. And an example of a region that’s in urgent need of restoration is Puget Sound, off the coast of Seattle, whose waters are home to the Southern Resident orcas. (This region also includes several possible locations for the whale sanctuary we’re creating.)
The Southern Residents are classified as an endangered population and their situation is increasingly desperate. Last summer, we joined an emergency effort to try (without success, sadly) to save the life of a four-year-old orca, known as Scarlett, who was emaciated and starving. This was just a few weeks after another member of the same extended family, Tahlequah, had lost her newborn daughter and carried her body up and down the coast for more than two weeks.
The Southern Residents have been in trouble for almost 50 years. The first body blow came in 1970, when seven of their young were captured in a brutal, deeply troubling roundup and taken to marine parks like SeaWorld and the Miami Seaquarium. The entertainment industry continued these captures until public outrage led to a moratorium six years later. But the damage had been done, and the families would never recover.
Add to this the fact that the whales’ main food source, Chinook salmon, is drying up, thanks to a confluence of troubles: the construction of dams along the rivers where the salmon breed; the fact that the orcas can barely hear each other through the noise and disturbance of commercial shipping and recreational boating; and that their ocean environment is poisoned with PCBs and other pollutants.
It is a great irony that for thousands of years, it was the orcas who kept all ocean life in balance. As the capstone species – the apex predators – of the ocean, they are central to the functioning of ecosystems, the regulation of disease, and the maintenance of biodiversity in every ocean on the planet.
But now this essential, delicate balance has been upset and this pinnacle species itself is under siege.
If we are to turn things around – for the orcas and all the other animals who depend on their presence – it will take the combined efforts of many of us working together. So, if you’d like to be part of this effort, please take a moment to visit the Global Deal for Nature and sign on to the petition. It’s an initiative of large organizations like the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and National Geographic Society, and of many smaller organizations like ours that can benefit greatly when we all cooperate and complement each other’s work.