Dear Friends of Lolita,
Defying all odds, Lolita continues to perform daily at the Seaquarium. She has recently been calling out, whistling in her native dialect, both above and below the water's surface, presumably in hopes of a friendly answer from her podmates. But her family is 4,000 miles away in Washington or somewhere in the Pacific.
Back in 1980, Hugo, the pre-adolescent male orca captured in 1968 from Lolita's family, banged his head against the walls of the tank and broke a viewing window. According to one story, he was moved to the much smaller manatee tank, about 100 yards from the whale tank. For several weeks Hugo and Lolita called to each other through the air, broadcasting their siren-like whistles to the wonderment of park staff and visitors. Soon Hugo crashed one last time into the walls, and died of a brain aneurism according to official documents. Somehow Lolita carries on however, her memories and her determination to return to her home waters and family apparently still strong.
There have been several demonstrations at the Seaquarium since the last Update on Feb. 9, the last one being April 29. Plans are now underway for another demonstration to coincide with Marine Mammal Freedom Weekend (Memorial day weekend) and World Week for Captive Dolphins (July 1-8). Anyone able to join in either or both of demos please contact me. It's important to keep reminding the staff and the public in Miami that Lolita needs to be returned to her home. Events to commemorate Lolita's capture on August 8, 1970 will also take place in Washington.
The Tokitae Foundation played host to the Corky campaign on May 13 at the Penn Cove Water Festival on Whidbey Island, Washington. The Freedom Bus, with life-sized portraits of Corky on one side and Lolita on the other, was parked in the center of the festival, with the mile-long Corky banner stretched on every available fence for all to appreciate. Corky was captured from the Northern orca community in British Columbia, about a year before Lolita was captured. She currently performs daily at San Diego Sea World. Corky and Lolita are by far the oldest females to survive in captivity, though both are young adults by wild orca standards. For more on Corky you can go to www.orcalab.org
Perhaps anticipating increasing public demand that captive orcas be returned to their homes and families, Sea World announced that Bjossa, the lone orca at the Vancouver Public Aquarium in British Columbia, would be moved to one of the Sea World parks next fall. Bjossa is another excellent candidate for release.
Keiko, star of Free Willy, is likely to experience the open ocean very soon. Construction in nearby Vestmannaeyjar Harbor will displace Keiko from his fenced off bay, at least temporarily. Please read the following press release from Ocean Futures for details. Our thoughts are with Keiko as he ventures out to ocean waters, where he was born and where his family still lives.
We'll keep this list up to date on developments concerning Lolita and the other release candidates.
May 18, 2000
Statement by Ocean Futures Society in Light of Planned Demolition and Construction Work in Klettsvik Bay, Iceland:
Santa Barbara, CA -- A number of rumors have emerged in recent days regarding planned harbor construction work near Klettsvik Bay, Iceland and its potential effect on Keiko, who currently resides in the bay. Following are the facts of the situation.
On April 6th 2000, Ocean Futures Society learned that construction of a pier would occur in Vestmannaeyjar Harbor as soon as April 15. The construction would involve blasting and pile driving at a distance less than half a mile from Keiko's bay enclosure. At this distance, the shock waves and low-frequency vibrations from the construction work could, in Ocean Futures Society's judgment, pose a risk of physical harm to Keiko.
Upon discovering the construction plans, Ocean Futures Society entered into immediate negotiations with local officials to secure a delay in the harbor improvements work. Officials at Vestmannaeyjar did agree to a short-term delay, but indicated that work would need to go forward as early as May 25. Ocean Futures Society is also actively engaged in discussion with the Icelandic and U.S. Governments on the best strategy for safeguarding Keiko's well-being as construction and blasting work gets underway.
Ocean Futures Society has been actively engaged in Keiko's rehabilitation and preparation for reintroduction to the wild since his relocation to Iceland in September, 1998. This process has gone extremely well, and Keiko is, in the judgment of his trainers and caretakers, ready to take further steps toward reintroduction. Keiko is eating up to 20% live fish, responds without fail to a recall signal, and has followed a boat on command for up to 11 nautical miles. His health is excellent.
Ocean Futures Society is now assessing all possible options for protecting Keiko over the coming weeks. While no final decisions have been made, one option would be to take Keiko out of his enclosed bay on an "ocean walk"- during which he would follow a designated boat to the open sea -- a measure for which he has undergone intensive training in recent weeks. Keiko's trainers have expressed confidence that his physical stamina and willingness to follow a boat mean that the risks of such a walk are slight, and may be far outweighed by the risks to Keiko's health should he be in the harbor during blasting. "Ocean walks" have been planned from the start as a key stepping stone in the reintroduction process.
During such a walk, Keiko would be led out of the enclosed bay that has served as his home for the past 17 months and then back to his bay enclosure. The duration of the walk, should this option be chosen, would be long enough to permit the harbor authorities to complete their blasting work and pile driving.
Ocean Futures Society's only priority in Iceland is Keiko's well-being. All actions will be taken with this sole concern in mind.