By Karla Munguia Colmenero
Karla Munguía Colmenero is an environmentalist and wildlife filmmaker. For three years she worked as camera operator and editor for Animal Planeta in South Africa and has collaborated in two projects for National Geographic. For the last 12 years she’s been Ambassador for the documentary “Keiko, the Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy”, bringing awareness about captivity to children in Mexican schools. Learn more about Karla at https://karlamunguia.com/en/
The image of a man swimming in circles in a tiny pool caught my attention. I was replying to private messages sent to Keiko the Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy via Instagram when I ran into his post.
I was blown away. Alberto Lorente, a professional swimmer from Spain, challenged himself to swim in circles for 24 hours, just like the hundreds of captive cetaceans do every single day of their lives.
I couldn’t sleep after watching some of the footage he posted. My mind was “swimming in circles”, too. The next morning I posted a comment on a video he shared and three days later, I spoke with him via zoom.
Why do this?
For the many years that I’ve been advocating for freedom for all animals, this is the first time in my life that I see a human being going through the same routine that dolphins, orcas, sea lions, belugas and many more animals who are being used and abused by this industry go through. So, I wanted to know what inspired Alberto.
“I’m a swimmer. I love the ocean and I’ve always done sports challenges in solidarity, and so, after a simple surgery that got complicated, I had to stay home for 10 months. I experienced being in confinement, so it was clear to me that my next project was going to be about the water world in which I would raise awareness about captivity”, Alberto said.
Alberto is used to pushing his limits. As a professional swimmer he’s already gotten two Guinness Records: one for the longest swim blindfolded and the second for the longest swim against current.
This time, he was determined to swim for 24 hours in the same direction in a small pool that he found on a beautiful cliff outside Barcelona, right next to the ocean.
How many times have we seen captive dolphins who can listen to the tides, the waves, and even their own species passing by? That was the message that Alberto wanted to share with the public in Spain… but it crossed the ocean.
“Spain is the country with the most cetaceans in captivity in all Europe, and I wanted to feel the pain that they feel”, he said.
And he did. After 4 hours he started feeling nauseous. Two hours later, he had to quit.
“Well, the pool was 8 meters in diameter and 74 centimeters deep. When I stopped, the pool kept moving in circles. It’s so small that it created a current… I kept scraping my hands and arms so I want to also raise awareness about the pain that these animals go through when they hurt themselves in these tanks”, Alberto said.
His reference?… Kshamenk.
In 1992, a park called Mundo Marino “rescued” a small male orca who got stranded with his pod on a beach in San Clemente, Argentina.
Since then, he’s been in one of the tiniest pools and he can only go the “biggest” for 40 minutes to perform.
“I wanted to use Kshamenk as a reference. I thought: Kshamenk is 7 meters long, and he’s in a 13 meter long pool… it’s not even twice his size. I’m 1.75 meters high and I’ve been in an 8 meter wide pool, and to me it’s been inhumane”, he said.
Last month, Kshamenk stopped sliding on the platform to “greet” the public. He’s being lethargic and only waving at the crowds as part of the show. His health has been a concern not only for organizations in Argentina like Proyecto Galgo Argentina and Derechos de los Animales Marinos, but also internationally.
We’ve already lost Kiska and Tokitae. Will Kshamenk be the third orca we lose this year? Do we need to lose another sentient being to learn the lesson?
If you would like to speak out for Kshamenk, you can sign a petition for the Argentinian government here: www.change.org/FreeKshamenk.
The size of the pool was not the only problem that Alberto faced. The changes in temperature also affected his performance.
“At night, the temperature dropped considerably. During the day, it was the opposite. By having so few cubic meters of water, we went from 15 to 16 degrees Celsius at night, to 27 to 28 degrees during the day. Your body goes from extreme to extreme, and I’m used to it. Imagine these animals living like this for 24, 30 years… It’s insane”, Alberto said.
Yes, he had to quit. But, in my opinion, his mission was accomplished. His story made it to newspapers and TV channels in Spain and it’s reached countries like Argentina, Mexico and the USA.
“Now, thanks to this project, I’ve been approaching organizations specially “Océanos de Vida Libre” (Oceans of Freedom) here in Spain. They go to dolphinaria, to these prisons, to protest at their doorsteps and specially to raise awareness with the young public… we’ve been invited these days to give talks in schools about this”, he said.
Education is the key, and Alberto knows it. More than changing the mindset of adults like us, we need to raise awareness with the younger generations who will have an understanding of the cruelty taking place in these so-called “marine” parks.
“Now that there’s so many of us in this project, let’s try to swim together in the same direction, I believe this is the message that needs to be heard…”, Alberto Lorente.
Watch full interview with Alberto, here:
Alberto on social media:
Alberto Lorente lives in Barcelona, Spain, where he works as a public transport driver.
To learn more about orcas in captivity, you can’t miss “Keiko, the Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy!” here: https://www.keikotheuntoldstory.com/watch/
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