Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator

Jason M. Colby. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (408p) ISBN 978-0-19-067309-3
Historian Colby (The Business of Empire) takes a revealing look at how the human view of orcas has changed, from considering them bloodthirsty monsters to realizing they are intelligent creature meriting protection from whalers, as well as ocean parks and aquariums seeking specimens to display. He explains that, in the early 20th century, Antarctic explorer Robert Scott’s bestselling journal solidified the animal’s image as a vicious killer, a view that supported multiple countries’ efforts to slaughter as many orcas as possible after WWII. The orca’s image only began to be rehabilitated in the 1960s, when live animals were captured and put on display, quickly becoming popular tourist attractions. The acquisition of orcas became a priority for venues like San Diego’s Sea World, which acquired the most famous one, Shamu. Colby persuasively contends that, despite legitimate concerns popularized by the 2013 documentary Blackfish, about the effects of captivity on orcas, the animals avoided extinction because their presence in accessible public venues enabled people to relate to them. At times, the amount of detail included bogs down the narrative, as in a section covering an aquarium owner’s early life, and other than the Blackfish controversy, the book is curiously light on developments in recent decades. However, for the many readers interested in the orca’s well-being, Colby has produced an originally argued and accessibly jargon-free consideration of a hot-button animal conservation issue. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/16/2018
Release date: 06/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 978-0-19-067310-9
Ebook - 978-0-19-067311-6
Compact Disc - 978-1-68441-552-6
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