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Free Lolita Update 34

Lolita Update #34
June 21, 2001



Dear Friends of Lolita,
  • Lolita campaign expands - Demo planned for Aug 8
  • Keiko is bounding across the Atlantic, making new orca friends
  • Southern Resident orca community suffer seven losses over winter
  • Orca Conservancy events coming up
  • New Orca Conservancy web site
­Reinforcements are arriving to expand the Lolita campaign! The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, (ARFF), the long-time leader in animal rights issues throughout Florida, is teaming up with Orca Conservancy (formerly the Tokitae Foundation) to take the Lolita campaign to a new level of intensity. With our two organizations working together, and with the enthusiastic participation of Florida State Representative Gus Barreiro, plans are now underway for a major demonstration at the Miami Seaquarium, and a public awareness drive across Florida. The demonstration is scheduled for August 8th, the 31st anniversary of Lolita's capture from Penn Cove, Whidbey Island, WA. You'll be hearing more about this as plans develop. This is wonderful news and a huge boost for the campaign, and the timing couldn't be better for maximum effect, as...

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Media stories about Keiko's fantastic progress are coming out almost daily. He's in top physical condition, he's roaming the North Atlantic, and he's meeting up with wild orcas virtually every day.To read about Keiko's latest romps about the North Atlantic, go to Ocean Futures.

The NBC station in Miami ran a great story linking Toki and Keiko. The story is on their website, at www.nbc6.net, then go to EcoWatch (listed midway down the page), then click on Keiko video.For an audio update on Keiko, Ocean Futures Executive Vice President Charles Vinick reports from Iceland on Keiko's many encounters with wild whales! Click here (Webmaster Note: Links Dead) to listen to the Real Audio Report.

We have to keep in mind that there are still plenty of unknowns about Keiko's prospects, such as whether his immediate family survived the systematic killing of 2,435 North Atlantic orcas by Norway between 1938 and 1981, according to published research. Researchers also don't know much about the family structure of North Atlantic orcas. Surveys conducted in 1987 suggested a population of at least 4,000 killer whales, but only a few hundred of those have been photo-identified and cataloged. Reports say that North Atlantic orcas exhibit "fission/fusion" behavior, meaning they often regroup into new traveling associations. This indicates that families and communities are probably quite large. This bodes well for Keiko, because he is more likely to be accepted into a larger, more fluid group. This is in contrast to Lolita's family, which are small, tight matrilineal pods. Lolita would have no problem finding her family, since researchers are very familiar with them and routinely monitor them from May through September.

All this serves to show that the time has come to bring Lolita home - and not only for her own welfare, but for the survival of her family. The 2001 census of the Southern Residents by the Center for Whale Research began in mid-May this year and the news is not good. Early results show that seven orcas are missing and presumed dead since last summer, leaving only 78 in the community. That's more than a 20% decline in the past six years. The causes are not precisely known, but there are strong indications that the main culprits are a decline in salmon runs (nine species of which have been declared endangered), in combination with heavy loads of toxic contamination that accumulates gradually over decades. The Center for Whale Research press release gives the details. We're happy to report that the newest orca baby, K33, who we told you about in Lolita Update #33, is doing well.

On May 1, 2001, a petition to list the Southern Resident population of killer whales under the Endangered Species Act was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Whale Research, the Whale Museum, Ocean Advocates, Washington Toxics Coalition, Orca Conservancy, American Cetacean Society, Friends of the San Juans, People for Puget Sound, Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Ralph Munro. The petition can be found on the Center for Biological Diversity Web Page.

We expect that the Seaquarium will use this sad news and say that with her family facing hard times Lolita shouldn't be returned to their damaged habitat. In fact, however, as noted in the recently filed petition to list the Southern Residents as an endangered species, Lolita's return is all the more important for conservation reasons alone, so she can help replenish her family with her own presence and possibly the addition of a calf or two. The problems facing the Southern Residents have built up over decades, so Lolita would not necessarily have high PCB loads in her system, and could give birth to healthy offspring.

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For those of you in the Puget Sound region These and a range of other issues are the topic of Orca Conservancy's monthly meetings. The next meeting, on the evening of June 27th on Whidbey Island, will be about orca behaviors. Contact susanb@whidbey.net for more information.

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Orca/Salmon Celebration, Tuesday, July 31st Freeland, Whidbey Island WA, 5 - 9 p.m. Orca Conservancy is pleased to join forces with the Maxwelton Salmon Adventure for this exciting evening of celebrating two of our favorite northwest species - orca and salmon. This event will focus on the important inter-connections between orca and salmon, and their habitats, and raise money to support these two non-profit educational organizations. Salmon writer/poet Tom Jay will be on hand to speak about salmon, and Kenneth Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research will share the latest information on our Southern Resident Community of orcas, J, K and L pods. Join us at the beautiful Freeland Hall on the shores of Holmes Harbor for a silent auction, displays, cocktail hour, dinner, and fascinating presentations on the Pacific northwest's two favorite icons, the orca and the salmon. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Susan Berta.

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Also, anyone in the Puget Sound region who would be interested in helping with a gathering or event on Whidbey Island's Penn Cove to commemorate the 31st anniversary of Lolita's capture on August 8th, please contact Susan Berta at susanb@whidbey.net. Since we will be in Miami for the demonstration that day, we are hoping there may be others out there wishing to do something on Whidbey Island, or anywhere in the Puget Sound area. Let us know if you would like to help or if you'd like to sponsor an event or activity on that day.





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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