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Free Lolita Update 45

Lolita Update #45
Lolita - Orca of Hope
Janaury 9, 2002

Dear Friends of Lolita,
  • Demonstration January 21
  • New Orca Network website
  • E magazine article
  • Lolita: Orca of Hope
Join us for a demonstration January 21 at the Miami Seaquarium. Orca Network and the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida are holding a rally and demonstration at the Seaquarium at Noon on Monday, January 21. Fittingly, January 21 is Martin Luther King Day, honoring a great spokesman for freedom and fairness.

The new Orca Network website ( is on the air. You'll find beautiful photos, news items, events and scientific information about Lolita and the Southern Resident Orca community (her family), plus updated sightings of orcas in Washington waters. More is being added every day. Stop by anytime and become a member of Orca Network.

Nationally distributed "E magazine" ran an article called "Lolita, Come Home" containing a good summary of the Lolita campaign to date. Some insight is provided into the lack of knowledge about Lolita that is typical at the Seaquarium. General Manager Robert Martinez said "She shares her habitat with Pacific white-sided dolphins-animals that could be part of her diet if she were in the wild." Actually, Lolita's family are strictly fish-eaters, and do not have any interest in dolphins in any setting. Of course the rusting Seaquarium tank hardly qualifies to be called a "habitat," and by the way there's no indication of any construction on the highly publicized "new Seaquarium tank."

Efforts to return Lolita to her home and family started in Seattle in 1970 before she was shipped to Miami. Demonstrators lined the docks where she was held for two weeks prior to delivery, holding signs demanding she be released. Since then 102 orcas have died in captivity, all of them at an early age, the majority within six years. Forty-four of those who died were from Lolita's extended family. They were sent to parks in Europe, the UK, Australia and Japan. All but Lolita had died by 1987. The survival record in marine parks hasn't improved in recent years. Fifteen captive orcas have died just since 1993 when Free Willy became a box office hit.

And yet Lolita has somehow survived over 31 years in captivity. Only Corky, another extraordinary orca at Sea World San Diego, has been in captivity longer. By all reports Lolita is physically healthy.

Some captive orcas seem to simply give up and die. Most of the deaths among captives are attributed to massive infections, indicating the animals' immune systems have simply shut down. All cetaceans are voluntary breathers, meaning they must consciously decide to take each breath. That in itself is difficult to imagine, and we don't know to what degree an orca's overall health is under conscious control. We know how our emotions can affect our health, but how much do an orca's emotions affect its health? The statistical finding is that captive orcas live less than half normal orca lifespans. We know that Hugo (captured from Lolita's family and delivered to the Seaquarium 18 months before Lolita arrived) died in 1980 of trauma to the head after banging his head against the wall. In the early 1970's he broke through a viewing window and nearly sliced the tip of his rostrum off.

What makes Lolita keep on living? What gives her the strength? It's impossible to know for sure, but because Lolita was taken at about age six, three or four years older than most of the captives, she may have a more vivid memory of her place of birth and her role in her family and community. Recent scientific findings presented at a workshop on "culture in marine mammals" at the November marine mammalogy conference in Vancouver show that orcas live as members of their societies of birth, and remain members their entire lives. Lolita still calls out in the unique whistles that only her family uses. It's been over thirty-one years since she was removed from her family, but to her, life in that tiny concrete tub may be some kind of unnatural aberration, and she may believe that one day she will return home. She must still have hope.

Howard Garrett and Susan Berta
Orca Network

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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