Within the past six months, many working directly with Toki began to notice signs of hearing loss and even began to suspect that Toki might even be deaf. Suspicions continued to grow when trainers began noticing that Toki did not respond to sounds presented very closely to her ear, including the sound of the whistle. These concerns were brought to the attention of veterinarians and those responsible for the daily care of Toki, yet not one official hearing test had been performed as of April 2023.
Toki has been on very strong antibiotics for the greater part of the last year due to a near deadly infection. Initially, Toki required daily injections of an antibiotic Amikacin, and months later was transitioned to an oral equivalent called Faropenem. Known side effects of strong antibiotics such as these include hearing loss.
We, at Truth4Toki, are very concerned about these observations of hearing loss. Hearing is necessary for the use of echolocation, which is key for navigation and foraging (Mann, et. al, 2010). Ultimately, as sonic creatures, wild whales and dolphins rely heavily on hearing for survival.
Knowing this, we are even more concerned that the Dolphin Company would even propose moving Toki to a seapen before even scheduling a formal hearing screen for Toki. We have so many questions, why don’t they?
If part of the reasoning is related to how she still can recognize the vocalizations of her pod, how will Toki be able to communicate, socialize and integrate with any members of the Southern Resident Killer Whale pod if she can not hear their vocalizations?
How will Toki successfully avoid dangers presented in murky waters including the netting of a seapen without the use of sonar?