Dear Friends of Lolita,
The Seaquarium's recent attempt to block Keiko's progress toward freedom has generated much attention and opened the door for consideration of Lolita's situation. Norway has made it clear they are confident Keiko is doing quite well and they have no intention of allowing him to be captured (again). While interest in the Seaquarium's desperate gamble is high we felt it was time to begin the process of petitioning for Lolita's reintroduction to her home and family...
SEPTEMBER 26, 2002
ORCA NETWORK APPLIES FOR PERMIT TO RESCUE LOLITA
In view of the Miami Seaquarium's request for a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to "rescue" a free-ranging orca (Keiko) from his natural habitat despite an existing agreement with NMFS granting responsibility for Keiko to the Free Willy/Keiko Foundation (FWKF), a precedent has been set for Orca Network to request a permit from NMFS to rescue Tokitae (Lolita), the adult female orca now confined alone in an undersized concrete tank at the Miami Seaquarium.
Keiko has accomplished phenomenal achievements showing he is able to survive in the wild. He has demonstrated his capabilities by traveling more than 900 miles across the North Atlantic in six weeks while fully satisfying his nutritional needs by foraging on his own. In early September Keiko was in the coastal waters of Norway, interacting with people, accepting fish, and approaching boats. More recently he has been monitored and his activities managed by qualified personnel who call Keiko to follow them. In this way they have provided him with long distance endurance training in open water prior to opportunities to resume his efforts to rejoin his community of oceanic orcas.
With this evidence of the feasibility of returning a long term captive orca to its native habitat, Orca Network asks that NMFS grant a permit to scientifically reintroduce Tokitae to her natal waters in Washington State. Based on our expertise and experience, we conclude that Miami Seaquarium has lacked concern for the marine mammals in their care for over three decades. Specifically, by placing Tokitae in a tank that does not provide straight-line horizontal dimensions equal to twice her body length, at a depth in part only half her body length and in no part equal to her body length, we conclude that the Seaquarium has disregarded Tokitae's essential need for sufficient space to move without obstructions. The Seaquarium has also disregarded Tokitae's need for shelter from the hot Miami sun. She was born in deep ocean waters in a cool northwest climate, but for the past 32 years has been held in a shallow pool with no protection from year round direct sunlight.
As an organization dedicated to the care and well-being of orcas worldwide, Orca Network has an interest in Tokitae's health. To that end, we offer to rescue Tokitae and ensure her survival. We will continue to monitor her plight in the Seaquarium tank and stand ready to assist in any way that is appropriate.
Upon NMFS' acceptance of this request Orca Network will collaborate with reintroduction specialists to recruit professional marine mammal care staff, arrange logistical support and provide funding to prepare Tokitae, provide transport, establish a bay pen and initiate protocols for her rehabilitation to resume her life in her home waters with the option of rejoining her family and her community, L pod of the Southern Resident Orca community.
Keiko's heartwarming success in the face of almost overwhelming odds shows that Lolita's reintroduction will be a walk in the park by comparison. That explains why the Seaquarium is working so hard to prevent Keiko from enjoying his freedom.