Dear Friends of Lolita,
Another captive orca has died an early death.
BJOSSA DIES AT 25 YEARS OF AGE
We are saddened to report the passing of another captive orca. Twenty-five year old female orca Bjossa died at San Diego Sea World due to a chronic respiratory infection. Bjossa was captured from Iceland in 1980 along with Finna, a young male who became her tankmate, and two other podmates named Vigga and Ulises, and possibly Keiko. Bjossa had been captive for almost 21 years. She gave birth to 3 calves in captivity, none of which survived longer than 96 days. The Coalition for No Whales In Captivity of Vancouver campaigned tirelessly to have Bjossa join with Keiko to be released off Iceland.
The Vancouver Aquarium, where Bjossa lived for more than twenty years of her captive existence, held orcas from a variety of orca populations around the world, each of which communicated in a different language, leading Bjossa to become tri-lingual by the time of her death. When Bjossa and Finna were delivered to Vancouver, the park had a male about 15 years old named Hyak. Hyak was a Northern Resident orca, captured in April, 1968. Until a month before Bjossa and Finna arrived, the aquarium had a female, Skana, who had been captured from the Southern Resident community.
For years Hyak and Skana had been exchanging calls and learning one another's vocabulary. Skana died in 1980, but Hyak continued to use the calls he had learned from Skana. Hyak soon learned Icelandic calls from Bjossa and Finna, and in turn he shared his calls, including those he had learned from Skana, with Bjossa and Finna. So in addition to her native Icelandic calls, Bjossa learned to communicate in both Northern and Southern community dialects, though she had never seen a Southern community orca. Science is only beginning to appreciate the intellectual abilities and community bonds that orcas are capable of.
Hyak died in 1991 after 23 years in captivity, and Finna died in 1997, less than 17 years after his capture.
Bjossa was moved to Sea World San Diego on April 22, 2001. The aquarium explained that orcas are highly social whales and should never be kept separate from other orcas. For three years after Finna died in 1997 the aquarium tried unsuccessfully to purchase a tankmate for Bjossa. Aquarium staff traveled to almost every whale park in the world to personally negotiate for another whale, but none were available. Instead, offers were made to purchase Bjossa.
Her death brings the total number of captive orcas to 49. Most captive orcas die at less than half their normal lifespan, so the number of captive orcas has not changed significantly for over ten years despite more than twenty captive births since 1985.
A post-mortem discovered that both of Bjossa's lungs were severely infected. More test results from the autopsy are expected to be made public soon. Uncontrolled infections typically cause death in captive orcas.
The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida and Orca Conservancy are planning more demonstrations in the next few months in front of the Miami Seaquarium to bring Lolita home to her habitat and family.