Dear Friends of Lolita,
It's very difficult to have any effect on the owners of the Seaquarium. Lolita is kept inside a fortress of concrete, corruption and mistaken ideas about her abilities.
The park says: "Lolita is totally conditioned to trust and respond to man, a trait that could be dangerous to her in the wild, perhaps even her kiss of death."
This obsolete belief expresses a common misconception that orcas are like ducks or domestic animals, and ignores the fact, established in the study linked below, that captivity itself is the kiss of death. The park's owners don't seem to know about the scientific discoveries of the past 30 years that have informed us that orcas possess highly evolved cognitive abilities, are aware of their life histories and situations, and are members of tightly-bonded families and ancient traditional cultures. Lolita still uses the unique calls she learned prior to her capture, calls that are still used by her family, the L25 subpod and by no other orcas worldwide. Lolita knows where she came from.
The miracle is that Lolita has survived all these years, against all odds, and somehow is still healthy and fully capable of transport by professionals to a carefully prepared baypen on the west side of San Juan Island, in the waters she grew up in and where her family visits almost daily for the better part of each year.
But how much longer can she withstand the constraints and pressures of captivity? When you see the paper released today "Keto and Tilikum Express the Stress of Captivity
" at The Orca Project, you may wonder how Lolita keeps her health and sanity, and we hope you'll renew your vows to do what it takes to get her out of there and back to her familiar waters.
For the first time a paper has been released that authoritatively and thoroughly examines the stresses that cause illnesses and lead to aggression in captive orcas.
Please read the news release below and go to the link at The Orca Project.
This is a major breakthrough and a landmark achievement in the history of orca captivity. We have in these few pages a look into orca captivity like none other. Dig in folks, and when you're done, send it around, everywhere. You'll be hearing more about this study of the effects of captivity on orcas, so let's all join in the conversation.
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 20, 2011
Orca Network: Howard Garrett or Susan Berta
360-678-3451, cell: 360-320-7176
E-Mail Orca Network
Former Trainers Show How Captivity Kills Orcas
A study titled "Keto & Tilikum Express the Stress of Orca Captivity" was released today after nearly a year in preparation showing how the conditions of captivity significantly decrease lifespan for orcas, and how captivity leads to aggression among captives and toward trainers. The paper was written by Drs Jeff Ventre and John Jett, who worked as trainers at Sea World of Florida for a combined total of 12 years with several orcas, including Tilikum, and with trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was tragically killed by Tilikum on Feb. 24, 2010.
In this paper you'll see the precursors and symptoms of stresses in orcas in captivity, illustrated with powerful photos. As former trainers at SeaWorld Orlando, and now a medical doctor and biology professor respectively, they have a perspective that has not been heard in the intensifying debate about captivity for orcas. Having been deeply enmeshed in those arguments for over 15 years, we can attest that seldom, if ever, has anyone discussed many of the topics covered here. Some of the major themes include shortened longevity, breeding of young mothers, severe tooth damage found in many captives and associated systemic illnesses, inbreeding, and the social tensions that often erupt in hostile behavior or violence toward other whales or trainers.
Ventre and Jett provide detailed observations and strong statistical calculations that add up to an abundance of evidence that captivity kills orcas, usually at a young age, and that stresses, social tensions and poor health are chronic issues in marine park facilities. A new statistic is compiled called "Mean Duration of Captivity" (MDC), drawn from diverse credible sources, that allow overall comparisons with free-ranging orcas, revealing shockingly low average longevity in captivity.
We often hear about how orcas suffer in captivity, but sometimes it's hard to understand what that means. In this article the reader can see the burnt backs and eye cataracts from floating listlessly on the surface looking up at trainers. With reference to what is known about the expansive travels, family bonds and cultural lives of free-ranging orcas, we can empathize with the traumas of capture, separation and shipment, the attempts to construct ad hoc social relationships and hierarchies in contrived groupings that are manipulated for management purposes. The dismal captive mortality rates revealed here make sense when these stressors are understood.
Everyone will learn something from this paper.
This is a comprehensive treatment of orca captivity, starting from the context of the conditions of captivity and how that relates to the two trainer deaths in the past year, and arriving at suggested mitigations and how to best phase out the practice. The point of view of the whales themselves is a key element here that is seldom, if ever, seen in the controversies over orca captivity. Ventre and Jett have kept their focus on the evidence, on what's happening to the orcas, how the conditions and symptoms add up to express the stresses of captivity. When this study goes out across the media I'm quite sure we will soon see a new public conversation about the effects of captivity on the orcas themselves.
View "Keto and Tilikum Express the Stress of Captivity
" at The Orca Project, with Appendices, original documents, and links to related postings.