Dear Friends of Lolita,
The DatelineNBC campaign is below.
The defamation case brought by the Seaquarium against Tim Gorski and Valerie Sildiker is winding its way to the courts. We'll keep you posted as it goes, but...
First the news of another death of a young orca at Seaworld. On April 5 a 15 year-old male named Splash died in Orlando. The whale's health had begun to deteriorate and his appetite dramatically dropped. Within a week he died. Splash was born in captivity in 1989 at Marineland, a marine park in Canada, and had been at SeaWorld since 1992. Most male orcas in captivity tend to die when they reach adolescence in their mid-teens. The park said Splash suffered from epilipsy.
With this death Sea World maintains its average of one orca death/year since 1986 - 19 whales in 19 years. The loss of Splash makes eight deaths worldwide in the last year, and leaves only 45 orcas in captivity worldwide.
According to recent reports Lolita remains fairly healthy, which is absolutely extraordinary. Most captive females die by the time they reach their early 20's, and only one other captive orca - Corky at San Diego SeaWorld - has lived even close to the 34 years Lolita has spent in captivity.
Now on to the Dateline campaign:
This message has also been sent to Dateline NBC to begin a campaign to encourage Dateline to produce another story about Lolita. In 1995 Dateline aired a 15 minute segment that told her story and the potential for her reintroduction to her home waters, including a dramatic scene in which Keith Henderson played a digital tape of Lolita's family recorded at a "superpod" gathering in the Pacific Northwest. She came halfway out of the water and leaned into the speaker.
Much has been learned in the past ten years about the family and culture that Lolita was taken from at about four to six years old. We now know that the calls Lolita still makes are the badge of membership in her community and pod. We know from Keiko's experience that moving a long-term captive to larger tanks or even to wild, natural environments does not produce stress, but to the contrary such a move leads to greater strength and vigor. We learned from two lost orca calves that the skills needed to catch fish are learned in their first year or two. Much like Keiko, Lolita probably still has those skills, although fish could be provided to her indefinitely upon her return home.
But most of all, as described in an abundance of scientific literature, and in the current National Geographic magazine, and in state and federal Endangered Species documents, Lolita's family is culturally distinct from all other orca communities worldwide. This degree of cultural identity found in orcas is without parallel except in humans. This means that in spite of almost 35 years confined in that tiny tank in Miami, Lolita still retains the knowledge that she is a member of a large extended family still living in the Pacific Northwest. With her brain about five times larger than average human brains, there is a very good chance that Lolita has retained her early enculturation and will have little problem recognizing and being recognized by her family, especially the couple dozen members who were present when Lolita was captured in 1970.
All in all, it adds up to a lot of fascinating evidence to present to Dateline to encourage them to produce another segment on Lolita. We are sending this message to Dateline, and we hope many of you will also send an email to:
...and ask them to revisit Lolita and her predicament in light of all that's been learned in the past ten years. You can cut and paste from this message or send it whole or make up your own message, but the more requests Dateline receives to do another story on Lolita the greater the possibility that they will do it. Please drop them a line.
Thanks, and as always we'll keep you posted.