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Free Lolita Update 36

Lolita Update #36
August 3, 2001

Dear Friends of Lolita,
  • 21 year old female orca dies at Sea World in Texas
  • Ocean Futures clarifies Keiko's fantastic progress
We have two stories to share with you on this eve of the August 8th demonstration at the Seaquarium, which could be a very major event to kick off a sustained public awareness drive in Florida.

Haida II, a 21 year old female orca at Seaworld in San Antonio, has died of undetermined infections. This sad captive death demonstrates two things. One is that orcas in captivity seldom live into their twenties, and two, it demonstrates that there will be no surplus orcas on the market for the Seaquarium to buy, as Hertz claims. For a female orca to die for no apparent cause is similar to a human at the same age dying from unknown internal causes.

Haida II, by the way, was one of the orcas who drowned a trainer in Victoria in 1991.


Houston Chronicle
Aug. 3, 2001, 108PM

SeaWorld biologists baffled by killer whale's death
Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO -- The oldest of SeaWorld San Antonio's five killer whales died this week, leaving park marine biologists baffled as to what killed her.
SeaWorld staff performed a necropsy on Haida (pronounced hide-uh) on Thursday but do not expect to know a cause of death for at least a month. Tissue samples and various organs were sent to independent laboratories, park spokesman Bob McCullough said.


KeikoWatch: August 3, 2001

-- August - a window of opportunity for Keiko to join whales this season -- Ocean Futures Press Release: Successes Seen as Summer Reintroduction Efforts Continue for Keiko


Reporting from the field: Charles Vinick, Executive Vice President, Ocean Futures

August - a window of opportunity for Keiko to join whales this season
The reintroduction team's energy is totally focused on keeping Keiko among whales for the weeks ahead while wild Orca remain in the waters of the Westman Islands. It has been fascinating to see how closely the migration patterns of the wild whales mirror the behavior we observed last year. For the last two weeks we have had very few whale sightings in the area. Our aerial surveillance teams traveled in a radius of more than 75 miles from Vestmannaeyjar without seeing whales for day after day. In checking our records from the summer of 2000, we noted that we had a similar absence of whales during the latter part of July.

Exactly like last year, the whales returned during the last week of July and we now have 40 or 50 wild killer whales in the area. From experience, we know that the whales are likely to leave the area for the year shortly after the middle of August and that is the window of opportunity for Keiko to join whales this season.

We are very encouraged by the frequency of the interactions Keiko has initiated with the wild whales. In these next few weeks the effort will be focused on allowing Keiko to be with whales without our presence nearby to impact the interaction in any way. We will monitor Keiko with the VHF radio transmitter and his satellite tag, as well as with visual observation from our helicopter team.

Can Keiko truly join a pod of whales? We cannot know. Based on three years of observational data, we know that the killer whale pods are very cohesive. These animals live in the same pod for life. Each pod has its own dialect. Humans know very little about the social structure of the pods and we do not know what it will take for a pod to allow Keiko to bond with its members.

To us, it may seem like the reintroduction process is taking a long time. But in reality, for Keiko and the whales, the process may not have been long enough. Each summer season, the wild whales are in the area intermittently for about 90 days. With the constraints of weather, equipment difficulties and the vagaries of locating the whales, Keiko spends no more than 60 days in their vicinity. Over the last two summers, he has spent less than 3 months actually in the presence of other whales and this may indeed be a very short time for Keiko and whales to feel comfortable enough with each other to allow him to permanently join a pod.

I think we too often try to evaluate the reintroduction process and its timetable in human terms without remembering that it is Keiko and the whales that must decide the real schedule. During these coming weeks we will continue to give Keiko every opportunity to join whales and we will observe and evaluate what takes place.

Only when the whales have moved on in their annual migration will we be in a position to evaluate what has occurred and make plans for next year. To be well prepared, we are already making sure that Klettsvik Bay is ready for another winter. In the months ahead we will also need to look to gathering the necessary infrastructure, human and financial resources to both give Keiko every possible chance for reintroduction and to ensure that he can always have the quality of life he has in the natural environment of Klettsvik Bay.

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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