Lewes had an unusual visitor last week – a life-sized orca whale.
The 17ft (5m) long inflatable was at Cliffe Bridge as part of a ‘Whale Trail’ promoting last weekend’s WhaleFest in Brighton.
Bafta award-winning actress and star of Born Free, Virginia McKenna, co-founder of the international wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation, together with the charity’s President, Will Travers, attended the largest whale-saving festival in the world.
The Whale Trail stopped off in Lewes during its tour of Sussex and Surrey before being ceremonially released into the sea.
The Born Free VIPs saw a screening of the award-winning film Blackfish and called for an end to the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity. Poignantly it was 23 years after the closure of Brighton’s Dolphinarium in 1991, and the release of its last two dolphins back into the wild.
Making a stand against the exploitation of whales and dolphins in captivity around the world, Virginia said: “I have many fond memories of Brighton, not least our rescue of Missie and Silver from Brighton Aquarium in 1991. Between them, they had spent 36 years performing for the public in an indoor pool.
“Thanks to the ‘Into the Blue’ initiative, these dolphins were set free, but thousands more individual dolphins across the world are not so fortunate. I am returning to Brighton for WhaleFest, to reflect on the end of dolphin captivity in the UK, and to call on the public and the international community to help us phase-out dolphinaria worldwide.”
Born Free Foundation President Will Travers said: “Once in a while, rarely, a film comes along that has the power to change the world. Born Free was such a film and I truly believe that Blackfish is as well.
“No one who sees this film can fail to be profoundly moved not only the unfolding human tragedies it recounts but the ongoing tragedy that exploiting orca and dolphins in captivity represents.
“More than 20 years ago I personally helped return some of the last captive UK dolphins to the wild.
“We are a now dolphin-free nation. I long for a time when we can claim to be a dolphin free world – and Blackfish is a film that will hasten that day!”