Dear Friends of Lolita,
Some events have recently transpired at the Seaquarium that bear watching closely and that offer some intriguing possibilities. It seems that on November 1st the SQ quietly closed the whale stadium, and the manatee pool has been closed since September. No date has been given for when the whale stadium will be reopened, and no news reports have covered news of these closures. The SQ website does however admit that these parts of the park are closed for "enhancements", if you happen to visit their "Admissions" page. That's all. Most visitors don't check the website and there's been nothing about the closings in the news, so people still come to the park.
The closures are the result of the many safety and fire violations recently exposed and publicized, that Miami Dade County is finally requiring the Seaquarium to correct. This is proving to be very costly for the Seaquarium - not only the millions of dollars the repairs will cost, but the lost revenues from the closure of the whale stadium and reaction from a public that doesn't want to visit a rundown and unsafe marine park.
Now more than ever it's important to present the case that there is no significant risk in Lolita's transport or placement in her home waters, and that Lolita is capable and competent to return to her native habitat, at the very least in a human care situation. Further, the possibility exists that she would vividly recall her habitat and her family membership in L pod of the Southern Resident orca community. In fact, Lolita still uses her family's unique vocalizations to this day.
If Lolita did indeed rejoin her family, her return could help the Southern Residents - listed as endangered by Canada and as depleted by the US National Marine Fisheries Service and are about to be listed as endangered by the State of Washington. Several females in her family have given birth into their mid-forties, and Lolita is in her late thirties. She could therefore still have a calf and ironically, Lolita's blubber may contain less of the toxins like PCBs that her family has accumulated in dangerous quantities over the years, so her baby may actually have a better chance of long term survival than those of the rest of her clan.
Circumstances are pointing to a very short future for the Seaquarium, and we will do all in our power to make sure Lolita doesn't end up in another tank somewhere. The Seaquarium's misfortune and bleak future could prove to be Lolita's chance for a one way ticket back to her family in Washington, and a well-deserved bright future after her 33 years of performing and living alone, so far from home. We'll let you know as things develop.....
And for those of you who have been following the story of Luna, the other "missing" L pod whale who has been alone in Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island for the past 2 1/2 years.....there is good news and bad news. Canada's Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans finally agreed Luna should be moved back south to her pod's waters, but then said they didn't have the funding to do it. The US National Marine Fisheries Service stepped up with funding, and then the Canadian Government came up with some funding, and we were all ready for Luna to come home this fall or winter while L pod is still frequenting the inland waters of Washington State & British Columbia. But then DFO decided it was too late in the season to proceed, and opted to delay Luna's reunion until the Canadian and US Governments could meet to come up with a new reunification plan. They have yet to announce what that plan is, or what the timing will be, but we are hoping Luna will be brought back by springtime for an early summer reintroduction to L pod. We will keep you updated on any news regarding Luna's return as well - it is our hope that 2004 will be the year that the two missing L pod whales, Lolita and Luna, will FINALLY be reunited with their family!
For more information on Luna, Lolita, and their family, please visit our website at: www.orcanetwork.org