Dear Friends of Lolita,
After a hiatus for the holidays, the University of Miami organization Humans Helping Animals is continuing the once-a-month demonstrations at the Seaquarium. The next one will be on Sunday the 30th of January at 12 noon at the Seaquarium. Anyone who is or can be in the Miami area at that time is encouraged to participate. Email Sean Klonanis at email@example.com for info on the demo.
The most interesting news from the Seaquarium is that in mid-December a Florida state representative let us in on some recent political activity by the Seaquarium. The park's owner apparently attempted to convince the legislature once again to allow the park to override county zoning regulations and build a $70 million night club and restaurant on the site, which is owned by Miami-Dade County. County regulations state that the property must be used for a "marine recreational area" which clearly rules out a night club.
Much to its credit, the legislature refused to meddle in the affairs of the county. For more than ten years the Seaquarium has been attempting to override the wishes of the citizens and elected officials of Miami-Dade County. This last attempt was orchestrated last summer after Arthur Hertz, the owner of the Seaquarium, appeared in May, 1999 on Channel 10 News in Miami, proclaiming that he had given up on his expansion plans once and for all, but was going to go ahead and build a new tank for Lolita anyway.
In fact, as we now know, there has been no construction on any new tank (which would not do Lolita much good anyway), and the Seaquarium did not give up on their expansion plans.
This provides some insight into the credibility of the park's position that long-term captive orcas, like Lolita, are "unreleasable." There is no significant risk involved in transporting Lolita to her natural home to reunite with her family, and there is no logical or scientific reason to believe she would not readily readapt to her familiar habitat.
The Lolita campaign continues to pursue other avenues to secure Lolita's return to her place of birth. We are still preparing a legal approach to convince the USDA to perform their responsibilities and enforce the Animal Welfare Act in regard to the size of Lolita's tank.
Please attend the demonstration Sunday in Miami if possible, and in any case, please express your support to Sean and the students at Univ. of Miami (firstname.lastname@example.org) who are doing so much for Lolita.
Oh yes, around 11:30 Sunday afternoon (Jan 23) we got a report of orcas off Langley, Whidbey Island, just north of Puget Sound in the vast inland waterway between Washington and British Columbia. We found them about noon travelling and foraging in Saratoga Passage. They were spread out over several miles, some in small groups, headed north on the east side of the pass. About 3:30 there was a breach and they turned around just short of Penn Cove (where Lolita was captured in 1970) and went back south, foraging slowly back down the Passage. It appears they use this area for food, and don't just travel through. They were mostly close to the mudflats several miles away on the other side of the pass from us, socializing and catching salmon. Now it seems more appropriate than ever that the new location of the Tokitae Foundation is overlooking Saratoga Passage.
This stretch of Saratoga Passage is where Lolita and about 90 of her extended family were herded by boats and planes into Penn Cove in 1970 and again in 1971, where they were finally captured and the young were taken away. That trip up this pass was Lolita's last look at her home and her family. Chances are she still holds vivid memories of her first six years in these waters. We'll have to bring her back to see.