| NUEVO VALLARTA, Mexico
NUEVO VALLARTA, Mexico A newborn killer whale
found bleeding on a Mexican beach has become the centre of an
international controversy over whether she should stay in
Mexico or be sent to a U.S. marine theme park.
Mexican aquarium workers have been feeding the baby named
Pascuala around the clock with milk from a tube inserted in her
mouth since she was found beached in a Pacific fishing village
Pascuala, just over a month old and weighing 403 pounds
(183 kg), is still recovering, but if she survives, the
aquarium's owners want to send her to the Sea World park in San
Her caretakers say there is no tank in Mexico big enough to
keep her when she grows and she will die if put back in the sea
or kept in an aquarium that is too small for her.
Some environmentalists oppose transferring Pascuala to Sea
World, however, because it could set a precedent that might
enable animal traffickers to export more killer whales, also
known as orcas.
"It hurts us that this animal might die, but we cannot set
a negative precedent," said Alejandro Olivera, head of ocean
campaigns for Greenpeace in Mexico.
The Mexican government's environmental protection agency
has so far blocked a transfer to San Diego, saying Mexico's
wildlife should not leave the country.
Sea World said it would be happy to accept Pascuala, where
she could learn from the park's seven existing orcas. Those
killer whales live in a 7 million gallon (26.5 million litre)
tank and perform tricks for legions of visitors.
Unaware of the controversy surrounding her, the baby orca
spends her days swimming and playing with her trainers, who
have grown attached to her while acting as surrogate mothers.
"It is more than a job or a work experience. This will be
one of the most important parts of my career," said Fernando
Miranda, who has worked at the Dolphin Adventure park in the
Nuevo Vallarta resort city for 10 years.
Visitors have flocked to see the baby and hundreds check a
blog set up in her name (orcapascuala.blogspot.com),
where videos, photos and testimonials detail her meals,
swimming lessons and attempts to play with nearby dolphins.
If Mexico refuses the transfer to Sea World, Pascuala could
be released into the ocean. But experts say a successful
reintroduction would be difficult for an animal raised with
human contact and being fed by hand.
Killer whales, the largest and most intelligent members of
the dolphin family, live in tight-knit pods that can travel 75
miles (120 km) a day in search of prey. Scientists would have
to find Pascuala's family and hope it would accept her.
This is not Mexico's first killer whale controversy. 'Free
Willy,' the 1993 Warner Brothers blockbuster about an orca
whose life is in danger, starred the real-life killer whale
Keiko, whose home was a Mexico City amusement park.
Following the film's success, fans forced Keiko's move to a
larger tank in Oregon and his 2002 release into the ocean. But
Keiko continued to seek human contact and after a year died of