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Free Lolita Update 134

Lolita Update #134
Lolita's prospects for returning to her home
March 11, 2014

Dear friends of Lolita,

Tens of millions have seen the powerful film Blackfish, and virtually every person comes away in agreement with the basic premise, that orcas simply can't live in captivity and shouldn't be forced into tanks. Now the Orca Welfare and Safety Act in California is ramping up awareness even higher nationwide.

There is something we all can do now to help end cetacean captivity sooner rather than later.

In a small concrete bowl in Miami a courageous female orca called Lolita is patiently waiting for the day she'll finally return to her home and family, after over 4 decades of captivity.

This month, for the first time in that long, sad story, the informed opinions of marine mammal scientists, writers, and the public, could turn the tide and help bring her back to the Salish Sea waters she still remembers.

Lolita needs our help now more than ever before. Tens of thousands, if not millions, of impassioned friends of Lolita worldwide also need your help at this time. But Lolita, most of all, needs your support.

For the first time since her capture in 1970, within a year the decision to either transport Lolita to a natural seapen or leave her in that tank in Miami until she dies, will probably be made by officials at NOAA, and not by the owners of the Seaquarium. This is a momentous historical event, and it could be lost forever if NOAA does not hear overwhelming support by knowledgeable, convincing experts advising them to allow Lolita to return to her home.

The comment period ends March 28.

This is the critical time for everyone to register their support for Lolita's retirement in her native habitat. Since the upwelling of public support for Keiko in the mid-1990s there has never been such good prospects for getting a long-term captive out of a tank and back to nature. Whether you care about Lolita or you want to help demonstrate a precedent that will help inform public opinion worldwide that it is safe and desirable to relocate most, if not all, other captive orcas and dolphins to natural sea pens, it behooves everyone who is opposed to the use of whales and dolphins in marine circuses to get solidly behind the proposal for Lolita's retirement at this time by writing a concise, courteous, well-informed comment to NOAA by March 28. Click here for the web site to comment.

At the link above NOAA is requesting comments on whether Lolita should be included as a protected member of the endangered Southern Resident killer whale Distinct Population Segment (DPS), which they agree is warranted. NOAA will almost certainly make that determination final within the next year. At that point NOAA will probably be petitioned to prohibit further use of Lolita as entertainment, and to allow her to return to a protected seapen in her native habitat, regardless of the wishes of the marine park. NOAA's answer to that request is by no means certain, and could be influenced by the opinions of respected experts and the general public, so the time is now to begin making the case that by far the most desirable outcome is for Lolita to return to her natural home.

Fund-raising is difficult until NOAA agrees in principle that Lolita should be allowed to return to her home, which will probably be contingent on sufficient funding. The actual transport will not take place until many months later, giving plenty of time to raise the necessary funds, with the help of the same voices who support her retirement now. Please don't allow that catch-22 to silence your voice.

Lolita's prospects have never been better for getting out of that tank and back to her native habitat with the opportunity to communicate with her family. The comment period to NOAA to effectively make the case that she should be included as a member of a protected population and would be much better off in her native habitat goes until March 28.

A good place to start to get her history and the history of the campaign for her is this blog entry published last August.

For background on what her inclusion under the ESA could mean, and the implications and suggestions for how to frame comments are HERE and HERE.

There's no restriction on country of origin for comments, so please follow the outline for suggested points and register your thoughts accordingly.

Howard Garrett
Orca Network

Orca Network - Connecting whales and people in the Pacific Northwest Orca Network is dedicated to raising awareness about the whales of the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of providing them healthy and safe habitats.

Projects include the Whale Sighting Network and Education Programs, the Free Lolita Campaign, The Langley Whale Center, and the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

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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