Help Retire Lolita The Orca
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On August 8 1970- in the waters of the Puget Sound of Washington State- a pod of orcas were attacked and rounded up by a group of herders, led by Ted Griffiths and Don Goldsberry.
Using speedboats, an aeroplane and releasing explosives in the water, they forced the orcas into Penn Cove. The juvenile orcas were separated from their mothers, as the infants were prime candidates to be sold to aquariums, while the adult orcas were released and free to leave.
However, the adult pod would not leave their offspring and refused to swim free, vocalising human-like cries, until the last baby was pulled out of the water, never to return again. One adult and four infant orcas were killed during this capture.
The industry, in an attempt to keep the orca deaths from the public, instructed the herders to slit open the bellies of the dead animals, fill them with rocks, and sink the creatures with anchors, hoping they would never be discovered. It is because of the large number of violent orcas captures by the marine park industry in Washington State waters, that an entire generation of orcas was eliminated, and as a result, this orca population is now considered an endangered species.
One of the orca infants captured was a 4 year old named Tokitae, who was sold to the Miami Seaquarium. She arrived at the marine park on September 24 1970, where she was renamed ‘Lolita’ and has lived there ever since. She performs tricks during her scheduled shows, and has done so ever since.
Lolita’s tank is the size of a hotel swimming pool.
It is now known that orcas are incredibly intelligent, sentient and social creatures. Resident orcas from the Pacific Northwest, which Lolita is classified as, stay with their mothers their entire lives. Lolita's mother, known as Ocean Sun, is still alive today, and is photographed regularly by scientists and conservation organisations.
Lolita currently lives alone with no other orca companions, besides a few dolphins. When not performing in her show, Lolita floats listlessly in her tank.
In the wild, orcas swim hundreds of miles per day, diving as deep as 500 feet. In her tank, she swims in circles inside the 35 foot wide area and can only go as deep as 20 feet, in a small area in the centre of the tank.
Lolita is the oldest living orca in captivity, in the smallest orca tank in the world.
However, there is a plan for her if we can persuade the CEOs of Miami Seaquarium.
Ken Balcomb, of the Center for Whale Research and Howard Garrett of the Orca Network have devised a plan to retire Lolita to her home waters of Washington state.
Lolita is not going to be completely “set free in the wild” after being in captivity for so long. The plan is centred around placing Lolita in a transitional coastal sanctuary sea pen where she will be rehabilitated under human care. When the time is right, she will be given the choice of going back to open waters if she so desires. All the time she will be monitored by veterinary staff, to make sure she is receiving the best health care.
Lolita will be transported by a cargo aeroplane to a cove by the San Juan Islands, in Washington State. She will continue to be fed by humans and given time to get used to her new home. Then the process of rehabilitation will begin. Lolita will be taught how to eat live fish and to follow a boat, which will be used to take her out of the sea pen for “walks” to get her used to the open ocean. The walks will get longer and longer, all the time gauging the progress of the rehab as to how well Lolita is doing.
Once rehabilitated, an effort would be made to reintroduce Lolita to her natural family (pod). Researchers know exactly who Lolita’s family are and where they travel. The whales that belong to Lolita’s family, the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs), are one of the most studied orca populations in the world. Experts believe that Lolita’s natural mother is the orca known as (L25), “Ocean Sun”. L25 is photographed quite frequently in the Puget Sound on a regular basis and is monitored, as are all the Southern Resident Killer Whales. This is what makes the Lolita plan so strong, Lolita’s natural pod are alive and well, so she has a family to return home to.
If for any reason, Lolita is not ready to be released into the open water, she can stay in the bay indefinitely, receive human care for the rest of her life, and have the real ocean to live in. All of this in an area hundreds of times larger than her 35 foot wide tank where she currently resides in Miami. She would not have to perform tricks, swim in circles, or have to be near the blaring music played during her shows in her concrete tank.
Please sign this petition if you would like to see this for Lolita.
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