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Free Lolita Update 13

Lolita Update #13
July 8, 1999

1) July Demonstration coming up Sunday, July 11, Noon to 1:30 pm
The July Demonstration at the Seaquarium is coming up Sunday, July 11, Noon to 1:30 pm. This time we will be standing on the West side of the main entrance to the Seaquarium, so we can face the majority of the traffic coming to the Seaquarium. So parking will be on the beach road parallel to the causeway. Turn right on Mast Academy Road and you're there already. Just go down the road as far as possible toward the Seaquarium and park wherever there is room. It's a little farther walk, including crossing a crosswalk at the school bus entrance, but it may be more effective at spreading some awareness to people about to go in to see Lolita. Ya'll come!!
2) New Times article has arrived!
The New Times article has arrived! It's an in-depth investigation titled "Livin' La Vida Orca" (cha-cha-cha). It tells Lolita's story and the reasons why she could and should get the chance to go home and return to her family. It also shows what we're up against. In the past few months while the article was being written the level of support for the Lolita campaign has risen exponentially, so it's not quite the joust with a windmill it may seem to be. There are many forces at work to get Lolita home, some more obvious than others. This is the most comprehensive treatment of the whole situation written to date. There's a lot of information here, especially about the natural history and amazing social lives of orcas. No other media report has included this depth of insight into orcas. You'll also learn more than you ever wanted to know about my checkered past moving sideways through life like a crab. Just take what you need and leave the rest. It's on the web at Livin' La Vida Orca!
3) Lolita's pool appears to be illegal
The last message to this list was the 6/22 bulletin about the discovery of 1969 documents that show that the tank is only 10' deep (not 12' as claimed by the USDA) on the shallow end, and only 18' deep (not 20') in the main pool. This means that the 10' deep part cannot be included in the overall measurements according to a letter from the USDA, which appears to make the entire tank illegal. So far the USDA has not answered my letter sent 6/22, but others have gotten answers, which say that the USDA used an engineer to take the measurements, but they won't tell us the name of the engineer without a Freedom of Information Act request. So we are requesting. Of course you'll know as soon as there is any news. Meantime, please contact:
W. Ron DeHaven
Deputy Administrator, APHIS
US Dept. of Agriculture
4700 River Road, Unit 84
Riverdale, MD 20737-1234
Tel: (301) 734-4980, Fax: (301) 734-4328
Please ask Mr. DeHaven (politely) to produce a document that shows that someone has actually measured the depth of the whale pool and the medical pool, or if no such document can be produced, measure the tank depth to see if the medical pool is really only 10' deep as the architect's drawings show. Over 15,000 letters and coupons have arrived at the National Enquirer to ask Florida Senator Bob Graham to intervene on Lolita's behalf. Sen. Graham is from Miami and his record shows he may help, if sufficient public pressure is applied. Sen. Graham can be reached at:
Senator Bob Graham
44 W. Flagler St.
Miami FL 33130
Ph: (305) 536-7293
4) Tillikum drowns visitor
Tillikum, the 20-year-old male orca at Sea World Orlando, has drowned a man who sneaked into his pool at night. He was found in the morning draped over Tillikum's back behind the dorsal fin. This death is eerily similar to the death of Keltie Byrne, which Tillikum took part in. I wrote a letter to various newspapers, thusly:
Dear Editor, The death at Sea World appears to be a sign of Tillikum's pent up anger after eight years of solitary confinement. There is no record of a human death caused by any free orca. Orcas are possibly the most social species known to science, and yet Tillikum is held without social contact for life.

A similar scenario led to the death of Keltie Byrne in Victoria, BC in 1991. Byrne was killed by three whales, one of which was Tillikum. Byrne was wearing a diver's wet suit, and yet the whales managed to take it off without leaving a mark on her body. Tillikum also took off this unfortunate soul's swim suit, also without leaving any major injuries. The drowning in both cases appears to have been deliberate. Orcas seem to know humans need to breathe air, as Keiko, the orca star of Free Willy, demonstrated when he rescued a baby from drowning in his pool. Left without stimulation in a featureless tank, orcas tend to become bored and aggressive. During the winter months the whales in Victoria were ignored except for feeding. Orcas crave attention and interaction, but as Vick Abbey, GM of Sea World Orlando said on the TV news: "Our trainers don't interact with Tillikum."

Hugo, the pre-adolescent male who died at the Seaquarium in 1980, was known for bashing his head against the wall. He once crashed into an underwater bubble window, shattering it and slicing off the tip of his rostrum. He died of a brain aneurism in 1980.

This incident at Sea World is a reminder that the emotions of captive killer whales are not so difficult to understand. Seaquarium trainer Manny Velasco recalled both Hugo and Lolita becoming aggressive, lunging at trainers on the platform (from Edward R. Riciuti, Killers of the Sea). Marine mammal veterinarian Jay Sweeney wrote: "Aggression expressed by killer whales toward their trainers is a matter of grave concern. Aggressive manifestations toward trainers have included bumping, biting, grabbing, dunking, and holding trainers on the bottom of pools preventing their escape. Several situations have resulted in potentially life-threatening incidents. In a few such cases, we can attribute this behavior to disease or to the presence of frustrating or confusing situations, but in other cases, there have been no clear causal factors" (from Handbook of Marine Mammal Medicine).

What is most amazing is that Lolita, the last survivor out of 45 orcas from her community that were delivered to marine parks prior to 1976, has maintained sufficient peace of mind to stay alive for almost 29 years in that substandard tank, alone since 1980.


Howard Garrett
Tokitae Foundation

Much is going on to help bring Lolita home and to inform and advocate for her and her family Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to help Orca Network continue this work by clicking HERE. Thank you!

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