________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 20 . . . . June 9, 2000

cover Orcas. (Champions of the Wild Series).

Chris Aikenhead (Director). Christian Bruyere & Ian Herring (Producers, Omni), George Johnson (Producer, NFB).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1997.
25 min., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number C9197 100.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 9-14.
Review by Betsy Fraser.

**** /4


I ended up living in a gorgeous environment, working with animals that must be universally acknowledged as some of the most beautiful things in creation and engaged in helping unravel a mystery that will take much longer than my lifetime to unravel.
Dr. Paul Spong is a behavioral psychologist who has dedicated his 30-year career to studying and conserving orcas, the most powerful predator in the sea. Orcas are highly social animals which have roamed the seas for millennia. Their small size has spared them from wholesale slaughter but doomed them to two decades of capture and exhibition in aquariums. Dr. Spong started to study orcas in captivity, but he quickly came to believe that these animals would best be studied in the wild and were, in fact, being hurt by continued captivity. In 1969, he founded Orcalab on Hanson Island, B.C., where he started a new approach to research - collecting information without actual observation. Sound is gathered through underwater microphones that allow scientists to catalog the vast repertoire of sounds that fingerprint different groups of whales, and the scientists can then "follow" the whales without actually seeing them.

One short portion of this video leaves the orcas. Dr. Spong took his conservation activities on the road in the 1970s when he approached Greenpeace about protesting the actions of Russian whalers in the Pacific. The resulting footage may be disturbing to some younger viewers. Dr. Spong is still not finished with his activism, but it is now directed at aquariums. He is working to convince aquariums to return their orcas to the wild.

As with the other videos in this series, the music is not intrusive, the voice-over is very well done, and the film is beautifully shot; orcas swimming, playing and engaging in their normal activities will surely delight viewers. Students will get a picture of the life cycle of the whale as well as a behind-the-scenes view of orca research. The underwater photography on the "rubbing beaches" will bring students a clearer picture of these misunderstood creatures than would any visit to an aquarium.

Perhaps this is just what the doctor ordered.

Highly Recommended.

Betsy Fraser is a librarian with Calgary Public Library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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