‘Voice of the Orcas” Seminar in May

Together for the first time since being featured in the searing, internationally-acclaimed documentary Blackfish, four former Seaworld trainers will be coming to Rochester for a special appearance at Kodak Center for Performing Arts (200 W. Ridge Rd, Rochester) for an international symposium from 7-9:00 pm on Saturday, May 3. This “brigade of activists” will be joined by Philip Demers—former Marineland trainer—for this exclusive event.Blackfish is the 2013 documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and subsequently acquired by Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films for wider release. The film focuses primarily on the captivity of “Tilikum,” a killer whale involved in the deaths of three individuals, and the consequences of keeping killer whales in captivity.As they did in the film, the four ex-Seaworld trainers—Samantha Berg, John Jett, Carol Ray, and Jeffrey Ventre, collectively known the “Voice of the Orcas”— along with Demers, will speak about their first-hand experiences regarding the treatment and plight of captive marine animals used for entertainment at marine parks. Demers’ recent whistle-blowing calling attention to the harsh conditions and mistreatment of the animals at Marineland has further put the captive marine industry under the microscope.Through short video clips, the panel will highlight and discuss the orcas’ extraordinary nature including their intelligence and sophisticated social structures. Discussion also will include ecosystems, the human impact and effects of keeping orcas and marine mammals in captivity, the reality of separation anxiety, aggression, animal drugging, water quality and nutrition, and future solutions for marine life education. Admission to this event, based on “Education, Not Exploitation” is free, but donations will be gratefully accepted to offset the cost of the event and to support the work of this educational movement. A meet and greet reception with the guests from either 5:30-6:30 or 9-10:00 pm is available for $15, purchased at the event.This international and educational symposium is the brainchild of two Rochesterians—Diane Digravio and Martha Sullivan, both involved in animal advocacy and wildlife rescue for more than two decades. As an 8th grade science teacher at Spry Middle School in Webster, Digravio showed the Blackfish film to her students. “Within days of their viewing,” she said, “my students completely overwhelmed me with questions and enthusiasm for how they could make change for orcas in captivity.”With their message of “one voice can change the world forever,” four of Digravio’s former students will speak at the symposium to share their previous conservation efforts and passion for making change. Digravio notes “the next generation holds the key to the future of our precious wildlife.”Tax-deductible donations will be accepted at the event as well as in advance online through www.kodakcenter.org/blackfish-brigade.

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