Dear Friends of Lolita,
On August 8, 2001, the 31st anniversary of Lolita's capture, about sixty people joined Florida State Representative Gus Barreiro, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) and Orca Network (ON) in front of the Seaquarium in a demonstration of our commitment to return Lolita to her home waters. Back in Washington, on the evening of August 8 a commemoration ceremony was held at the Captain Whidbey Inn on Penn Cove, the site of Lolita's capture in 1970.
These events followed a fascinating week that began when Rep. Barreiro paid a courtesy call to Arthur Hertz, owner of the Seaquarium, to let him know he was initiating a high-profile public awareness drive to gain Lolita's freedom. Mr. Hertz quickly countered with a media event of his own, in which he once again loudly proclaimed his promise to build Lolita a new tank, a vow he has made and broken repeatedly for over 20 years in an effort to avoid enforcement of Animal Welfare Act, under which his present tank is illegally small.
Mr. Hertz' attempt to fool the media backfired when reporters contacted ARFF and OC and were told that it was not economically possible for Mr. Hertz to build a $17.5 million tank that will be useless as soon as Lolita departs one way or another. Lolita is the oldest orca still surviving in captivity, and it is no longer possible to purchase a captive orca. Heather Lischin of ARFF also informed the media about our August 8 demonstration. Mr. Hertz' media gathering thus provided a venue to publicize our demonstration!
The demo was energetic and well attended, showing the fruits of the new coalition of ARFF, OC and Rep. Barriero. Mr. Hertz added to the crowd with his own spies and a publicist who attempted to sway the media with the moldy old falsehoods about Lolita's supposed inability to return to her home and his ficticious plan to build a new tank.
On the eve of the demo Miami TV carried the news that Keiko was happily swimming free in his home waters in Iceland and showing no need for dead fish or human company. Since August 1 Keiko has remained up to 35 miles from the boats day and night, his whereabouts known only by blips from his satellite tag and the occasional helicopter overflight as he cavorts and socializes with wild orcas.
It's not known if Keiko has located his close family members at this point, but he's clearly preferring to be with free-ranging orcas rather than his human trainers. It's still too early to declare Keiko completely free of human control, but within a few weeks the decision will have to be made whether to attempt to coax him back to the bay pen at Klettsvik Bay with an acoustic signal. If called back to the pen it will then be up to Keiko to decide whether to be confined again for the winter or remain with his wild counterparts on the open sea. Watch this space for more news about Keiko!
After the demo, veterinarian Greg Bossart, Mr. Hertz' hired mouthpiece, was trotted out once again to repeat his sing-song propaganda to discourage and confuse the public. "Unethical, inhumane and irresponsible" sang Bossart, ignoring Kieko's progress reported days earlier. Bossart repeatedly demonstrates the marine park industry's desperate attempts to block all proposals to release captive orcas. He once even wrote an article in Marine Mammal Science to mislead the scientific community and the public by falsely claiming Keiko carried a virus. A team of six veterinarians appointed by the USDA examined Keiko and determined that he carried NO dangerous virus.
But regardless of Hertz' fallacious media blitz, plans are underway to demand that the USDA remeasure the obsolete and illegal tank Lolita has been forced to live in 24 hours a day for the past 31 years. Simply by enforcing existing regulations contained in the Animal Welfare Act, the USDA could shut down the Seaquarium's whale stadium and force Lolita to be moved to a more humane home. The best possible home for Lolita is, of course, her real habitat and extended family in Puget Sound, Washington.