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Free Lolita Update 29

Lolita Update #29
January 15, 2001

Dear Friends of Lolita,

Efforts to bring Lolita home to her family in the Pacific NW continue on several fronts. The Animal Legal Defense Fund ( has uncovered new legal angles that along with other developments show promise. As with most legal matters however, we can't give out a lot of details just yet.

Keiko is steadily progressing toward freedom and reunification with his family in the North Atlantic. According to Jeff Foster of Ocean Futures "As the days start to get longer we are all very excited and optimistic about the spring and summer field season. We can hardly wait for the day when the weather breaks and we can start taking Keiko out on ocean walks again."

The new web site for Orca Conservancy (formerly the Tokitae Foundation) will be up and running within a few weeks, with many new capabilities such as daily orca news briefs, streaming video, a reader's forum ("ask Orca Conservancy") sightings map and a variety of other innovative items. The site will include a vast array of orca-related knowledge, legend and lore. We'll let you know the launch date.

Here's more exciting news
  • Another new orca baby discovered in J pod! Many sightings around Puget Sound recently.
  • Singing to the orcas - Lolita's family to appear on Sixty Minutes II - Tuesday night, Jan 16. ***
See the Seattle Post-Intelligencer news report on the new J pod baby.

The new calf, designated J-37, is the first of the millenium, and the third in the past year. Here's the Orca Conservancy press release

Contact Kelley Balcomb-Bartok (360) 378-3557 or cell 360-317-4609
Or Susan Berta or Howard Garrett (360) 678-3451

SAN JUAN ISLANDS (January 11, 2001)

The third newborn killer whale in the past year was spotted Wednesday in the San Juan Islands, raising hopes for recovery of the Southern resident orca community that has decreased by over 15% in the past five years.

The new J pod baby, designated J-37, was determined to be the calf of 26-year-old J-14, named Samish. J pod is one of the three pods that frequent the inland waters of Washington and British Columbia, together known as the Salish Sea. J-37 is Samish's third known calf. Her first calf died in 1991 at the age of four. Her second calf, a male, is now six years old.

The baby whale was still orange from birth and had fetal folds, which means it was born in the last 10 days, said Kelley Balcomb-Bartok of Orca Conservancy, an orca advocacy group.

Southern community orcas are known to be highly contaminated by persistent toxic chemicals, which are passed directly to newborn calves in their mother's milk, especially endangering the first calves. Researchers hope that since this is J-14's third calf it is relatively free of toxins.

In early November a calf was born to fifteen-year-old K-16, named Opus, a member of K pod. It was her first known calf and at last report was doing well. In late 1999 J-16 gave birth to J-36, her third calf. Whale researchers are watching closely to see if the new calves survive their precarious early months.

Since 1995, the orca community declined from 98 animals down to 81 earlier this year, as deaths outnumbered births. The three recent births bring the population back up to 84.

In the past month orcas have been seen on numerous occasions from Nisqually to Lummi Island. On December 24 all three pods converged near Tacoma Narrows for a superpod greeting, with the pods intermingling in small groups along with a variety of ritualized behaviors. On New Years day L pod was seen along the northwest side of Whidbey Island, while J and K pods were off the southeast side exiting Saratoga Passage. Orcas typically travel 75-100 miles per day.

Balcomb-Bartok said "With the new calves, I am hopeful there could be some rebound. We need every little upturn we can get."


Singing to the orcas - Lolita's family to appear on Sixty Minutes II - Tuesday night, Jan 16.

Orcas seem to have an uncanny way of knowing when we are thinking about them. "The Orcas Sing," a salty serenade to killer whales by a Seattle choir, is scheduled for broadcast on "60 Minutes II" on Tuesday night. Last summer, the City Cantabile Choir went to San Juan Island to sing for the orcas through an underwater speaker system.

"The whole point was to bring people's attention to the plight of orca whales," said Fred West, director of the 20-member choir. For the event, West said he composed "Songs for the Sea," a suite drawing on maritime traditions.

The singers were delighted when a pod of orcas showed up for the performance, splashing and "singing" back. The show was dedicated to J-18, known as Everett, a young male whale that had recently died and washed ashore; it was the dead male's pod that responded to the choir. The program is scheduled to be shown nationwide Tuesday evening on CBS.

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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