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  • Writer's pictureRob Lewis


Check out this devastating and important video from and scroll below for my musings on the matter.

On January 1, 2019, this clip came across my facebook page. When I first watched it I thought the orangutan was trying to escape, but on second viewing I saw he was indeed fighting back. I also realized that as he clambered over the wreckage that had moments ago been his home, he was being drenched in rain, which must have been doubly disorienting to him, for he would know rain as something that falls above a rich, protective canopy.

I can tell you now it was hard to watch. Each viewing felt like ash falling through my body. So why show it to you? Why make the ash fall inside you?

We certainly all know by now. We’ve been informed we’re causing a thing called the Sixth Great Extinction. We’ve absorbed volumes of statistics. Is it the Monarch butterflies or the amphibians in Costa Rica that declined by 92% last year? Does the African rhino have 12 years left and the sea lion 20, or is it visa versa? At a certain point, the numbers all blend into a single blur. But it’s not the numbers that matter anyways. If the harrowing statistics haven’t moved us by now, they probably won’t. But maybe the creatures themselves can.

Something like that happened not too long ago here around the Salish Sea, when a grieving mother orca, Tahlequah, reached deep inside. For three years her extended family had had no successful births. They were starving, exhausted and unable to reproduce. Then, on July 24, Tahlequah successfully gave birth to a female, of critical importance as the child-bearing matriarchs of the pod were aging. But the calf died within half an hour. That’s when Tahlequah lifted her upon her nostrum above the water and began a 17 day vigil through the Salish Sea, holding her calf aloft like a distress beacon. Biologists had witnessed similar expressions of grief among other orcas and some dolphins for a day or so, but never seventeen. This was something entirely new. The Salish peoples of the region had no trouble interpreting her vigil, though. She was showing us their dire reality, they said. She was calling for our help.

What the orangutan and Tahlequah have shown us is that what we crisply call the sixth great mass extinction would be better called, and understood as, a global animal holocaust. It is a story of grieving mothers and dead infants, hunger and homelessness. It is a hand that has never known a fist pounding a bulldozer’s blade.

So why show you a video clip that’s painful to watch? Because, in their way, they are calling to us. Because they are fighting back. The orca, the orangutans, the ocean, the jungles and ocean reefs, flowers, fruits and seasons, soil, sky, birds, breath and atmosphere—we’re all allies now.

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