Life Span of Whales and Other ConcernsEditor: The...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 01, 1992

Life Span of Whales and Other Concerns

Editor: The International Marine Animal Trainers Association is an organization of nearly 1,000 marine animal trainers, researchers, scientists and students world-wide who collectively have literally thousands of years of experience with dolphins, whales and other marine mammals, both in the wild and in captivity.

After reading a number of the articles regarding the recent death of a beluga whale at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, we feel that there are several inaccuracies and misconceptions which need to be addressed.

Douglas Birch's Dec. 25 article quotes Ben White as saying that ''statistics show that belugas live about four years after being put in aquarium tanks, while dolphins live about 4.5 years.'' The truth is that such statistics do not exist.

These figures are a distortion of statistics by Mr. White and other animal rights extremists. The figures come from a 1986 study done for the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission which showed that the average length of time for dolphins in a zoo or aquarium was 5.13 years (5.54 years for beluga whales).

This 5.13-year figure represents length of stay in a zoological environment -- not mortality. A reasonable comparison would be to a family composed of a mother and father, both of whom are 25 years old. A baby is added and immediately the average age of the family drops to 16.6 years. If, one year later, another child is born, then the average age drops to 13.25 years.

On the other hand, the only published scientific paper comparing the average age at death of captive dolphins to that of wild dolphins concludes that, on the average, captive dolphins are over 2 years older than their wild counterparts at the time of death.

The same article also cites Ric O'Barry as saying that dolphins in the wild can survive up to 45 years. While this is true, it is an attempt to mislead as this is a maximum age limit, not an average. In 1990, the oldest known living wild dolphin was 42 years old. However, the average life expectancy for both wild and captive dolphins is about the same -- 15 to 17 years.

Dan Rodricks' long-standing dislike of the National Aquarium (and seemingly of everything else in the Inner Harbor) is well-known far outside of Baltimore.

Most rational individuals will dismiss the vitriolic and ignorant attack of Mr. Rodricks' Dec. 27 column but there are a few of his remarks that need to be challenged.

The National Aquarium is not an anachronism. Nor is any other zoological facility.

When you consider that more people visit North American zoological facilities annually than all professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey games, then you know that these facilities are fulfilling a very real need.

John Kirtland. Kailua, Hawaii.

The writer is a past president of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association.

Irresponsible Statements

Editor: This is the first time I have felt disturbed enough to respond to your editorials which consisistently lambaste the agencies in the Baltimore City government.

The recent editorial, ''Pomerleau: A Tough Cop,'' is indicative of your position to tear down this city.

I specifically refer to the statements that ''. . . none of his successors has been able to grapple successfully with the many difficult problems now confronting Baltimore City's police department. As long as those problems are shunted aside, effective crime fighting will remain only an elusive goal.''

These are two of the most irresponsible statements your paper has made in recent times.

I have worked with every police commissioner since Mr. Pomerleau. I have observed, from a better vantage point than the writer of the editorial, the fine service rendered to Baltimore by men ranging from Frank J. Battaglia to present Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods.

These men, whom you unfairly criticize, are city residents, born and raised. They showed sensitivity to the needs of the community and squarely faced not only the problems of the department but the non-crime related problems of this city.

These commissioners, one Italian American and three African Americans, have done an excellent job of directing the police department in the aftermath of one managed like the Nazi Gestapo or the Soviet KGB. I suggest you read Michael Olesker's column which appeared in The Sun the same day as your editorial.

My fervent prayer is that no commissioner ever follows Pomerleau's act.

& Melvin P. Freeman. Baltimore.

Social Security

Editor: I fully share the view expressed in Margaret G. Orman's letter (Jan. 6) about Social Security cost-of-living benefits going to those of us who are not in need.

These funds could be put to better use housing the needy and providing food for the hungry.

However, instead of the means test she seems to suggest, I would urge that the full amount of Social Security payments be taxed like any other pension payments.

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