Dear Friends of Lolita,
Anonymous sources have alerted us to the recent deaths of three dolphins at the Seaquarium. One dolphin died two months ago by plastic ingestion and two died last week supposedly due to an airborne fungus. As Carl Dortch, head of Lolita's Legions, writes Please, I urge you, write, fax, call...whatever it takes. Write to the Miami Herald and express your feelings. Let them know this is not acceptable and it's time they start putting the welfare of the animals held there over their own greed."
I urge you to contact the Miami Herald (HeraldEd@herald.com), and also Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas (email@example.com) to express our alarm at these deaths and our demand that Lolita be reunited with her family in Washington.
It's important to understand the defensive fortress the Seaquarium has become. Employees at the Seaquarium are run by fear and falsehoods. Pay is low, morale is very low and turnover is very high. That's why we receive so many leaks. I'm sure there is a witchhunt on now to weed out the sources of the above information.
I don't know the veterinarian quoted in the Herald story below, but past veterinarians have seemed eager to prostitute themselves to suit Arthur Hertz, the owner. His son Andrew now monitors employees at the park. Mr. Hertz tells complete fabrications to his employees and they repeat them back to him, so he believes his own lies. Even Dr. Greg Bossart, the esteemed vet who sometimes speaks for the Seaquarium, has said outright falsehoods in print to please Mr. Hertz. For instance, he claimed that identification of Lolita's family is "based on guesswork," despite over two decades of respected photo-identification research on Lolita's family, the Southern Resident community. Dr. Bossart also stated in a scientific paper that Keiko had contracted a "presumptive viral disease," which was proven false by a panel of USDA-appointed veterinarians (see Bossart's paper here
Such stories fly like the litter at the Seaquarium. I've personally heard Seaquarium trainers say that Hugo, the pre-adolescent male orca who died at the Seaquarium in 1980 of a brain aneurism (according to NMFS documents) after reportedly banging his head against the wall, died of "old age."
So we need to take the "airborne fungus" theory with a large dose of salt. The Herald was told these dolphins "died after massive brain hemorrhages." One has to wonder what really caused the brain damage.
Since 1994, when a sudden lobbying blitz by the Alliance of Marine Parks and Aquariums removed oversight of captive cetaceans from NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) there has been no requirement to record deaths or causes of death of captive cetaceans on any public record. Thus marine parks are free to say whatever they want, or nothing at all. If there hadn't been leaks from the Seaquarium there wouldn't have ever been a newspaper story about the recent deaths.
So please continue to demand Lolita's return to her home and family, but as the old saying goes, don't believe everything you read in the papers. We'll keep you posted. Below is the story from the Miami Herald.
October 6, 2000
Rare disease kills two Seaquarium dolphins
BY CHARLES RABIN
A rare airborne fungus has killed two full-grown Atlantic Ocean bottlenose dolphins in captivity at Miami Seaquarium in the past two weeks.
Though officials at the Biscayne Bay tourist attraction say they don't believe there is any immediate threat to other animals at the facility -- such as whales, sea lions or other dolphins -- they are keeping a watchful eye.
All the mammals have been given a broad spectrum of antibiotics and antifungals.
Workers have increased the amount of chlorine in the Flipper Lagoon, where the two dolphins would jump and frolic for tourists.
Cookie, a 9-year-old male, died Sept. 25. Tori, a 10-year-old female died six days later. Both died after massive brain hemorrhages.
``This [fungus] goes right into the blood vessels and will cause bleeding,'' said Seaquarium veterinarian Dr. Maya Dougherty.
No one seems to have any clue where the fungus called Apophysomyces zygomycetes came from. It's generally found in soil.
Although the fungus incubates for six to eight weeks, both mammals -- born in captivity at the Seaquarium -- only began to show signs of labored breathing 10 to 12 hours before they died.
``At that point both showed signs of some sort of paralysis,'' said Andrew Hertz, the Seaquarium director of marketing.
A necropsy showed both died of the same disease.
Dougherty said she heard of a similar case in a park near the Florida Panhandle about five years ago.
The disease is also known to affect dolphins in the wild.
``It's not common at all,'' she said. ``But it's been seen.''
Hertz said it's unlikely Seaquarium officials will ever find out where the fungus came from.
``It's something that could have been picked up in Texas and brought over the Gulf for all we know,'' he said. ``It's something that can be carried in strong winds, like what we've had for the past while.''
In other news, on September 17 Orca Conservancy, as the Tokitae Foundation has renamed itself, held a full day of events on San Juan Island, in the heart of the habitat of Lolita's family, the Southern Resident community. First were a series of "State of the Pods" addresses delivered at Lime Kiln Lighthouse on the west side of San Juan Island. Assessments of the condition of the habitat and the health of the orca community were delivered by Secretary of State Ralph Munro, Ken Balcomb, director of the Center for Whale Research, Whale Museum science curator Rich Osborn, Kelley Balcomb-Bartok, and Howard Garrett. Ken Balcomb was awarded a certificate to honor and commemorate his 25 years of continual field research on the Southern Resident community.
Later that afternoon a panel discussion was conducted to discuss a variety of viewpoints concerning the health and well-being of the Southern community. Moderating duties were performed admirably by Sec. Munro. A wide range of experts presented their perspectives on how best to restore the biological productivity of the inland waters and reduce stress on the whales. A complete video and audio record of this event will be available soon.
The panel was followed by a "Ralph Roast" to show appreciation for Sec. Ralph Munro's long history of untiring efforts to help the Southern community in any way possible.