Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain, and all the children are insane

Back in 2020, I was asked by an international conservation group if I would help them develop an innovative program on zoo exhibition. It’s an area I write about professionally. I have since parted ways with that group for reasons I will explain below, and due to a confidentiality agreement and the fact that their program is continuing, I have no intention of discussing the group, details of the program, nor my role with it. At the time, in order to avoid any perceived conflict of interest, since I tend to critique just about everyone and everything, I decided to take down my blogs and their social media components, which had a following of 70,000+ annual visitors. It was a big sacrifice to make, but I was, and am still, that committed to the goal of their project.

In early March, I celebrated my birthday at a resort built on the shore of Monterey Bay. All was good. I had a physical a few days prior and my doctor had told me that I was in the best health he had seen me in for years. My weight was in check, my BMI was good, my gout hadn’t resurfaced for years and my glucose and A1C levels were within accepted parameters. That last part was very important as my A1C had reached 14% just before Thanksgiving – more than twice the demarcation line between prediabetes and diabetes. In case you’re unaware, an A1C level above 9% is a risk indicator of blindness, nerve damage and kidney failure. Because of the high A1C, I had an MRI performed on my kidneys. More on that in a moment.

During the physical, I asked my doctor to look at a couple of moles that had become very dark. He sent me down to the lab where high definition images were taken and transmitted to the dermatologist.

The morning after my birthday, I posted a Facebook video from the patio of our beachfront suite, thanking my friends and colleagues for their birthday messages and announcing the good news about my health. That afternoon, my wife and I decided to drive home along the coast. When we stopped in Santa Cruz for coffee, I received a call from the dermatology department, telling me that they needed to schedule an exam right away. Because of the photos sent in, this was an emergency booking.

The next day, Kiska, the last remaining orca in a Canadian aquarium or theme park, passed away.

Kiska. Publicity photo from MarineLand of Canada.

I went in for my dermatology appointment. The dermatologist examined my skin and then performed a biopsy on one of my moles (actually two moles that had merged). The biopsy result was positive for melanoma. I was told that a second biopsy – deeper and wider – was required to determine the extent of the cancer. But before that could take place, I would have to have a culture taken because the wound had become infected – pathology results indicate I have a staph infection. It’s been very painful and I’m in a Catch-22 situation as I can’t take ibuprofen, which could cause the wound to bleed and I can’t take the recommended Tylenol since it would interfere with another medication I’m on and create liver damage.

All frightening episodes in our lives must have a happy ending. Or not.

The week rounded out with a call from my primary physician. Something had been noted on the MRI, meaning I will need to have a kidney biopsy to check for renal carcinoma.

So here I was, changing my outlook from very positive to examining my mortality.

And the entire time, I was thinking of Kiska.

A number of SeaWorld orcas passed during the last few years, as did a number of well known rescued dolphins in Clearwater, but Kiska’s loss was devastating for so many, including myself. My heart goes out to her caretakers and to everyone influenced by her, whether she sparked an interest in animal care or marine biology or ignited a passion for improving her life.

Kiska was unique among all the orcas kept in facilities. She was one of three orcas past the age of 50, making them outliers in the lifespan for orcas in human care. She was also one of three to be kept without another orca in the same tank. But her case was different than the other two – they had dolphin “companions,” she had no other cetaceans with her at all. She was all alone.

I was in a position with this conservation group where we could have helped her.

I didn’t do enough.

I failed her.

Lots of people failed her. And I want to address that. And the Miami situation with the lone orca there.

Lolita/Tokitae/Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut. Miami Seaquarium publicity photo released prior to current USDA standing (or non-standing, if you want to look at it that way).

Before I went on my birthday retreat to Monterey Bay, I decided it was time to bring back the ThemedReality blog. Now, I’m realizing the timing is off. I stepped away from the conservation group because I realize I need to put in the time and effort to concentrate on my health and the treatments ahead. For the same reason, I need to step away from blogging too.

But before I do, I have two final posts. One is on Kiska and Lolita. I’m well versed on both and what’s been going on behind the scenes. But due to a number of nondisclosure agreements and information that was shared with me confidentially, there’s a lot I won’t make public. I have no grudges against anyone, no reason to break these written and verbal agreements. HOWEVER, that won’t keep me from sharing my observations and opinions based on currently publicly available information. And they’re not going to be fluffy happy thoughts.

So later this week, I’ll be examining the situation with Kiska, what was missing from Canadian legislation, how a single blog post prevented her acquisition and why The Whale Sanctuary Project can learn a lot about how to run an animal charity from another sanctuary operator based in Kanab, Utah (yes, The Whale Sanctuary Project is headquartered near the Arizona-Utah border).

And I’ll look at the Lolita/Tokitae situation in Miami, including the bizarre “Day of Listening” and “historic initiative” announcement events. I’ll examine the arguments of her former trainers against her move, and I’ll explain why the individuals behind her proposed move to Washington state have given conflicting timelines on the move itself and differing opinions on releasing her into the wild. I’ll also explain why the Sikh/Buddhist co-founder of Friends of Tokitae and the avowed athiest founder of PETA are both publicly praising Jesus – information you may not think you need, but you really, really do.

Move over Snow White. There’s a new Princess in town. Publicity photo for Disney Parks, copyright Disney.

Next week, I’ll post the final (for at least a few months or years) post on this blog, something I’ve been working on for the past 18 months – an in depth examination of Splash Mountain, the most racist ride that non-Blacks don’t realize is racist. I’ll look at the history of the Uncle Remus stories (bet you didn’t know he shot another Black man in cold blood for leering at his wife – it’s one of the stories) and Disney’s Song of the South. I’ll point out the hidden racism of a beloved Disney resort, how Disney has skirted the issues of slavery and civil rights in its attractions, and the historical issues with Tiana and why they don’t matter.

Extra points if you recognize the song lyrics without Googling them.

Joe Kleiman, Blogmeister, ThemedReality/The Final Days of Conventional Wisdom/The Mid-Cap Chronicles

One thought on “Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain, and all the children are insane

  1. Good article. Kiska’s story is beyond heartbreaking, and I truly hope Toki gets her chance in ocean waters. Best of luck with the melanoma diagnosis.. I am proof it is survivable. Be well.

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