Life Span of Whales and Other Concerns
Editor: The International Marine Animal Trainers Association is an organization of nearly 1,000 marine animal trainers, researchers, scientists and students world-wide who collectively have literally thousands of years of experience with dolphins, whales and other marine mammals, both in the wild and in captivity.
After reading a number of the articles regarding the recent death of a beluga whale at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, we feel that there are several inaccuracies and misconceptions which need to be addressed.
Douglas Birch's Dec. 25 article quotes Ben White as saying that "statistics show that belugas live about four years after being put in aquarium tanks, while dolphins live about 4.5 years." The truth is that such statistics do not exist.
These figures are a distortion of statistics by Mr. White and other animal rights extremists. The figures come from a 1986 study done for the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission which showed that the average length of time for dolphins in a zoo or aquarium was 5.13 years (5.54 years for beluga whales).
This 5.13-year figure represents length of stay in a zoological environment -- not mortality. A reasonable comparison would be to a family composed of a mother and father, both of whom are 25 years old. A baby is added and immediately the average age of the family drops to 16.6 years. If, one year later, another child is born, then the average age drops to 13.25 years.
On the other hand, the only published scientific paper comparing the average age at death of captive dolphins to that of wild dolphins concludes that, on the average, captive dolphins are over 2 years older than their wild counterparts at the time of death.
The same article also cites Ric O'Barry as saying that dolphins in the wild can survive up to 45 years. While this is true, it is an attempt to mislead as this is a maximum age limit, not an average. In 1990, the oldest known living wild dolphin was 42 years old. However, the average life expectancy for both wild and captive dolphins is about the same -- 15 to 17 years.
Dan Rodricks' long-standing dislike of the National Aquarium (and seemingly of everything else in the Inner Harbor) is well-known far outside of Baltimore.
Most rational individuals will dismiss the vitriolic and ignorant attack of Mr. Rodricks' Dec. 27 column but there are a few of his remarks that need to be challenged.
The National Aquarium is not an anachronism. Nor is any other zoological facility.
When you consider that more people visit North American zoological facilities annually than all professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey games, then you know that these facilities are fulfilling a very real need.
John Kirtland. Kailua, Hawaii.
The writer is a past president of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association.
Editor: This is the first time I have felt disturbed enough to respond to your editorials which consisistently lambaste the agencies in the Baltimore City government.
The recent editorial, "Pomerleau: A Tough Cop," is indicative of your position to tear down this city.
I specifically refer to the statements that ". . . none of his successors has been able to grapple successfully with the many difficult problems now confronting Baltimore City's police department. As long as those problems are shunted aside, effective crime fighting will remain only an elusive goal."
These are two of the most irresponsible statements your paper has made in recent times.
I have worked with every police commissioner since Mr. Pomerleau. I have observed, from a better vantage point than the writer of the editorial, the fine service rendered to Baltimore by men ranging from Frank J. Battaglia to present Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods.
These men, whom you unfairly criticize, are city residents, born and raised. They showed sensitivity to the needs of the community and squarely faced not only the problems of the department but the non-crime related problems of this city.
These commissioners, one Italian American and three African Americans, have done an excellent job of directing the police department in the aftermath of one managed like the Nazi Gestapo or the Soviet KGB. I suggest you read Michael Olesker's column which appeared in The Sun the same day as your editorial.
My fervent prayer is that no commissioner ever follows Pomerleau's act.
& Melvin P. Freeman. Baltimore.
Editor: I fully share the view expressed in Margaret G. Orman's letter (Jan. 6) about Social Security cost-of-living benefits going to those of us who are not in need.
These funds could be put to better use housing the needy and providing food for the hungry.
However, instead of the means test she seems to suggest, I would urge that the full amount of Social Security payments be taxed like any other pension payments.
In this way, the impoverished aged would not be taxed on their Social Security benefits, while the rest of us would be paying a fair share.
The remaining funds could be used to alleviate human misery.
% Abraham Makofsky. Baltimore.
Editor: Why is Delegate Howard Rawlings pushing a bill that would require future Maryland laws and regulations to refer to persons of African descent as African-Americans?
What's wrong with simply calling them Americans? Or Marylanders? Or citizens? Or people?
Why do persons of African descent have to have a special legal designation? His reference to the use of terms such as Italian-Americans, etc., is irrelevant. Terms such as these are used in the context of social and fraternal organizations.
My grandparents came from Lithuania, England and Germany. Does that mean there should be a law passed that would require Maryland laws and regulations to refer to me and others with like ancestors as Lithuanian-Anglo-German-Americans? Of course not!
L That would be absurd. And so is Delegate Rawlings' proposal.
' Richard T. Seymour. Baltimore.
Editor: Ernest B. Furgurson wrote of New Hampshire, "The state's other major distinction is that it was the home of Millard Fillmore, namesake of a society whose stated purpose is 'to rescue him from the obscurity he so richly serves.' "
Millard Fillmore (1800-1874) was born Jan. 7, 1800 in the township of Locke, Cayuga County, New York. He was admitted to the New York bar in 1823 and practiced law in East Aurora, N.Y., until 1830, when he permanently settled in Buffalo. In 1828 he was elected to the New York state assembly and in 1833 to the U.S. Congress. In 1847 he was overwhelmingly elected the first comptroller of the State of New York.
At the 1848 Whig convention, which nominated Zachary Taylor for president, Fillmore was nominated for vice president. On the death of President Taylor (July 9, 1850) he became the 13th president of the United States. After retiring from public office in 1853 he moved back to Buffalo and died there on March 8, 1874.
) Daniel G. Higgins Jr. Claiborne.
Editor: On behalf of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial United Methodist Church, I'd like to thank you for publishing an article about our Jan. 11 program, "Racism: Eternal Strife."
I hope that this article will awaken your readers to our goal of completing Dr. King's "unfinished agenda" to destroy racism in this society.
I must say, though, that I was slightly misquoted in that article. Not that it's vital, but I imagine that some people who read my quote had a little trouble understanding it.
What I really said was that the image in which God created us must have been based on something other than race or else only one race would populate this planet. However, I was accurately quoted concerning God's compassion for people of all races.
Let's face it: Nobody on this planet has the right to decide for us all which group of people is superior or inferior. Racists, by presuming that they do have this right, are showing the world that they are slaves to their own delusions of superiority.
If there were really such a thing as a superior race, then God would have allowed only that race to exist today. I believe that God's allowing different races of people to exist on the same planet is the best argument against the myth of white supremacy that we can look for, just as our existence in general is a powerful argument in favor of God's existence.
Leon Hairston Jr. Baltimore.
Editor: Your article referring to legislative displeasure with the Baltimore County delegation is revealing. Farrell Maddox, to his regret, is the one who has bared his soul the most.
"Sometimes you have to hold your nose (and vote yes)." Indeed! It is precisely this kind of "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" tax-and-spend attitude that has caused so many voters to turn against incumbents.
# Bob Kilpatrick.
Editor: I am a resident of Maryland and a taxpayer. I am also an employee with 30 years' service of the state of Maryland.
Apparently, the above is an oxymoron. Our elected officials are bleeding us dry; whittling away at our benefits and work hours.
It seems everyone empowered thinks we don't have families, need no food or shelter. No one speaks for us. This includes the unions which blow hot air.
When will we be heard?
# Etta F. Derman. Baltimore.