Dear Friends of Lolita,
We haven't sent out an update since April simply because there hasn't been much to add. We'd like to report some positive changes in Lolita's prospects for coming home, or some effective ways you can help make that happen, and of course we'll always let you know if anything changes, but nothing major has happened recently. There's been no response yet from Dateline about doing a followup story to their 1995 report on Lolita.
We've known since 1995, when Ken Balcomb, director of the Center for Whale Research, first announced the Lolita campaign that, unless we got lucky and found a legal foothold or a major national political figure willing to go to bat for Lolita, we were in for a long haul. The challenge is to change the way people think about orcas in captivity. The Free Lolita campaign is part of a much larger, worldwide effort to spread the understanding that captivity always harms and often kills orcas and other dolphins. That global campaign is succeeding. Capturing orcas anywhere in the world now appears to be politically impossible. Orcas are dying faster than they are being born at Seaworld and throughout the marine park industry. 45 orcas now remain in captivity, 26 of them born in tanks. Marine park "collections" are steadily dwindling and they are desperate for more performing orcas. In the past ten years 17 orcas were born in captivity and survived so far, but 26 others have died in tanks, not counting the deaths of 19 newborns. You can find the history and all the details on orcas in captivity at http://www.orcahome.de/orcastat.htm
It's become clear to most people by now that an orca's home water and natural habitat is the only safe and healthy place to live. The more difficult phase of this campaign is to inform the world that captive orcas and dolphins are capable of safely returning to their home waters, and in many cases rejoining their families of birth. For some captives, retirement may call for pens or feeding stations in natural surroundings, while others can fully reintegrate with their free-ranging families and societies. Lolita shows extraordinary strength and resilience, and seems to hold on to memories of her family to this day (demonstrated by calling out every day in her family's unique dialect), even after almost 35 years in that tiny tank. She should have the option of remaining in human care near where she was born, or gradually rejoining her family. Lolita's family, the Southern resident orca community, is right now, Sunday, July 17, enjoying a "superpod" reunion. All 90 members are greeting and playing together just a few miles west of Whidbey Island, WA. Lolita should be in amongst her family again, taking part in those festivities. One observer reports: "I had not ever seen an Orca before, and it was something that will forever be special to me. There was so much activity with the animals. Although I do not know technically what the whales were doing, I can say they sometimes came completely out of the water, sometimes just peeked out of the water so their head and upper body showed, did a cartwheel, swam along the surface together, and did small leaps and huge leaps. They seemed to be so happy."
For those of you in western Washington, we will be holding the 8th annual commemoration of Lolita's capture at Penn Cove on August 8, 1970. Below is the press release on this capture anniversary event. Of course you are all invited. Below the press release is a very interesting report from Lolita's poolside in Miami from Sunday, July 10, sent in by Anne-Marie Van Dijk, in which Lolita, also known as Tokitae, or Toki, shows she can still make a little mischief when she feels like it.
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE * Photos of Luna & Lolita available upon request
CONTACTS: Orca Network: Susan Berta or Howard Garrett
360-678-3451 or 1-866-ORCANET
Lolita & Luna: Our Missing L pod Whales
In commemoration of the 35th Anniversary of the Penn Cove Orca Capture
Join Orca Network to commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the Penn Cove Orca Captures on Monday, August 8, from 5 - 8 pm at the historic San de Fuca Schoolhouse overlooking the 1970 Penn Cove capture site.
The evening's focus is Lolita and Luna: Our Missing L Pod Whales. Come and learn more about these two missing L pod whales: Lolita, who was captured and removed from her family pod August 8, 1970 and has been living in a small tank at the Miami Seaquarium for 35 years; and Luna, or L98, who somehow strayed from his pod and was presumed dead until he turned up in Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island in July 2001, where he has since been living a lonely and solitary life hundreds of miles from his Mom and L pod family.
We are honored to have Suzanne Chisholm & Michael Parfit as our special guests, to present "Saving Luna: an update from Nootka Sound", including videos and stories about Luna's solitary life in Nootka Sound.
Michael and Suzanne are writers and documentary filmmakers who specialize in the relationship of people to their environments. Michael's work has appeared in National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines. He wrote scripts for two IMAX films, Antarctica and Ocean Oasis. He is also the author of four books. Michael and Suzanne have worked together on a variety of film projects, including an hour-long documentary on the Australian environment; short pieces for the National Geographic Channel on Greenland, puffins, geology, Newfoundland fisheries, minority cultures in Europe, rising sea levels in the Netherlands, and a series for the National Geographic Channel on Canada's Inuit and their relationship to the land. Michael's magazine article about Luna appeared in the November 2004 edition of Smithsonian magazine. They are currently writing a book and producing a documentary about Luna, and have lived part-time in Gold River since April 2004.
The event will also include an update on Lolita's situation in Miami by Howard Garrett of Orca Network, as well as the latest news on Lolita's and Luna's extended family, the Southern Resident Community of orcas. Also enjoy gourmet appetizers, no-host wine bar, displays, and a silent auction to raise funds for Lolita, Luna and Orca Network's educational projects. Cost of the event is $15 per person, tickets are available by contacting Orca Network at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-678-3451, and will also be available at the door. More information about Lolita and Luna can be found at www.orcanetwork.org
The San de Fuca Schoolhouse is located at 650 Zylstra Rd, corner of Zylstra and Highway 20, 4 miles north of Coupeville and 5 miles south of Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, WA.
Anne-Marie's July 10 report from the Seaquarium:
I got a chance to see her on Sunday. She seemed to be in good physical health and her spirit seemed quite good too. They also have a bottlenose dolphin in the pool with her now. His name is Rio and he is less than 2 years old. Two of the Pacific white-sided dolphins are still with her (Lii and Loki).
Before the show started, when she was still in the medical pool, I could slightly hear her whistle. Toki started out doing well, but then soon thereafter started doing the complete opposite of what her trainer was asking her to do (three times in a row, and very deliberately too). I wonder whether she wasn't cooperating to rebel or simply to tease her trainer. Considering she did it three times in a row, with three different behaviors and not wanting fish for it, it seemed to me like a way of teasing her. She even went up to her and sprayed her full of water! It was really interesting to see. I truly wonder what she must have been thinking. As usual, the trainers gave her a time out (not paying any attention to her) and then came back. She performed as was asked after that. It's always very sad seeing how trainers treat her after a time-out, really giving the idea she has been a "bad" girl.