Nothing bothers Anusha Zaman, 14, more than seeing wild animals, particularly orca whales, placed into cramped quarters and forced to entertain and perform tricks for thousands of people.
To advocate her cause, she is creating a statement art piece for the 2015 International Get to Know Unconference in Canada in October that she said will portray the frustrations facing the whales.
“I want to show how sad they are through their own eyes,” said Anusha, an incoming freshman at Baton Rouge Magnet High.
Imagine, Anusha said, placing 18-to 21-foot-long whales inside of cramped tank enclosures that provide limited movement for the animals.
“Humankind’s need for entertainment is affecting nature,” said Anusha. “We are taking animals out of their habitat for our own entertainment. It’s all pretty selfish.”
Born in Sapporo, Japan, Anusha said her family moved to Baton Rouge in 2005. She grew up loving the outdoors, nature, trees and insects. While attending Glasgow Middle, she participated in conservation projects that helped her focus on ways to save the state’s wetlands.
Last year, Anusha was selected as the state winner in the Unconference Get to Know Art Contest for her depiction of a Ringed Kingfisher. She said she studied and became fascinated with the bird, which at one time was nearly endangered before the 1960s.
Thanks to last year’s win, she was invited to create an art piece that she hopes will woo the judges at the Unconference and draw attention to orca whales, she said.
The Get to Know Program organization was founded in 1999 by naturalist and painter Robert Bateman and current director Mary Krupa-Clark in Kelowna, British Columbia, with the dream that children would have opportunities to get to know the names of their wild neighbors, the group’s website said.
The group’s conference is designed to promote environmental education “in order to raise a generation of citizens who are inherently aware of their impact on the environment and how their positive interaction with their local wildlife can help preserve our natural wonders for generations to come,” the website said.
Anusha’s interest in whales was heightened after she watched the 2013 documentary, “Blackfish,” a film highlighting captive killer whales at SeaWorld and deaths and attacks on trainers and individuals by captive orca whales.
In its SeaWorldcares.com website, the organization lashed back at “Blackfish,” calling its portrayal of SeaWorld in the documentary as “propaganda” non-objective, misleading and manipulative.
Anusha said she believes wild animals should be free and not forced to live in cages and tanks.
“A normal habitat for a whale is 42 to 50 times bigger than the (whale) tanks. They are just trained to perform tricks. They are not happy,” Anusha said.
Anusha is not alone in her argument, organizations such as the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, are against whale captivity, arguing that small tank sizes are stressful and confining to the whales.
Last year, SeaWorld announced plans to enlarge whale tanks at several of its parks. SeaWorld has launched rebranding campaigns and replaced its CEO.
Anusha is optimistic that people are beginning to lose interest in and turn away from parks that display animals in captivity, she said.
“A lot of it is really selfish, and it is not going to help the humans or the wild animals,” she said.
Anusha’s participation in the Unconference will include showcasing her orca whale art, workshop sessions on photography, painting, volunteering and community involvement.
To donate toward Anusha’s traveling costs to Calgary, a city in Alberta, Canada, she can be reached at email@example.com. For information on the Unconference, visit www.get-to-know.org/unconference-page.