Much to tell
People often ask us about Lolita. How is she? What can I do to help? Those are simple questions with complicated answers. It's been since August that we've sent out a Lolita Update, mainly because we haven't have new answers to those questions. As always, Lolita seems to be doing well. Just today we got a call from ringside at the Seaquarium whale stadium, reporting that Lolita is still looking healthy and doing the routines just as she has for almost 42 years. Other than the 3 weeks in March of 2011 when shows were suspended while Lolita was treated, apparently for an dental infection, we're not aware of any health problems. Otherwise there's not much new to report about Lolita herself, except that the miracle of her survival alone in a cramped tank only grows more amazing with each day.
From the beginning of this campaign for Lolita's retirement in 1995 we've always believed that before there can be any real discussions with the management of the Seaquarium at least one of two miracles would have to happen. Either the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS, under the USDA), would have to enforce the Animal Welfare Act provisions for care of captive cetaceans, especially in regard to the illegally small tank Lolita is confined in, or a wealthy benefactor would have to overwhelm the owners of the Seaquarium with sufficient incentives to convince them to do the right thing for Lolita and participate in her retirement plan. But before either of those developments were likely, the overall public would have to learn and understand the extreme stresses suffered by captive orcas in general, and about the safety and feasibility of returning Lolita to her natural habitat in a sea pen.
By learning Lolita's story and telling others about her in whatever way is available to you, about how well she would respond to being cared for in a supervised sea pen, with the same diet of fish and the same level of care she has known all these years, you can help bring about the public awareness and understanding needed to motivate APHIS to enforce the Animal Welfare Act and at the same time increase chances for the kind of moral and financial support needed to make it happen. It may not seem like much when you tell a friend or relative about Lolita, but the combined effect when a lot of us speak up for her could accomplish miracles.
We often get another good question: How's the campaign going? Well, we have some encouraging news. Public understanding has shifted dramatically in Lolita's favor in just the past two years. Public knowledge of the stresses and dangers of captivity for orcas has taken a quantum leap recently, and is likely to tip even further toward the view that captivity for orcas is inevitably harmful, and that the option of Lolita's retirement in a natural sea pen would be safe and feasible.
Since February 24, 2010, when SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was tragically killed by the 12,000 pound orca called Tilikum, media attention has repeatedly turned to the broader issue of whether orcas should be confined for our entertainment at all. The investigation and citation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) into worker safety at SeaWorld, and the subsequent hearings after SeaWorld contested the citation, propelled much more discussion of that question, along with revelations about the alarming frequency of aggressive acts by orcas against trainers. Also in full view were the many attempts by SeaWorld to cover up these facts or blame the trainers who were injured or killed even when they were just doing what they were told to do. SeaWorld's credibility has taken a major hit over the past year.
That legal confrontation, in turn, became the starting point for investigative journalist David Kirby to write a new book called "Death at SeaWorld
" that explores the the history of orca captivity in great depth, and contrasts the stressful lives of captive orcas with his comprehensive look at the lives of free-swimming orcas. A few days after Death at SeaWorld was released, Kirby posted a video from 2006
that shows a captive orca named Kasatka pulling trainer Ken Peters down to the bottom by his foot, pinning him there for about a minute, then bringing him to the surface for a minute, then taking him down again for another very long minute. The trainer survived the ordeal with only a broken foot and a traumatic memory, but the video has been viewed almost 5 million times in just one week since it was posted, demonstrating for all to see that captive orcas are not happy, and catapulting readership of the book.
In concert with these exciting developments, Lolita now has an expert legal team on her side! The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for excluding Lolita from the 2005 Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing of Lolita's extended family, the Southern Resident Community, as endangered. The case was dismissed on a flimsy technicality without discussion of it's merits, so Lolita's lawyers have announced they will appeal the dismissal
and will try again to have Lolita included as a member of an endangered species, in which case her continued confinement could be considered illegal as a form of harassment.
August 8 will mark 42 years since Lolita was pulled from her home and family, tied to a flatbed truck and driven to Seattle for delivery to Miami. All are invited to join us for our annual Capture Commemoration Ceremony on the waters of Penn Cove, at the site of the captures on that day. We'll board sailboats at 4 pm and sail out to the middle of Penn Cove with a wreath and flowers to toss at the scene of the tragedy, followed by songs by the Shifty Sailors, longtime Lolita campaigners, eye witness accounts and updates on trends and current developments.
Below are the new campaign postcard and bumper sticker to bring Lolita's story and retirement plan to even more people.
To purchase either or both of them, please click HERE
to find the Orca Network shopping page, and scroll to page 4. Donations to the campaign can be made HERE