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Free Lolita Update 89

Lolita Update #89
We won't forget her
July 15, 2007

We won't forget her

By Susan Berta

Whidbey News Times - Saturday, July 14 2007

On the 37th anniversary of the Penn Cove orca capture, August 8, 2007, Orca Network holds its annual commemoration of all the Southern Resident orcas taken during the capture era, and honors Lolita, the only survivor, who lives alone at the Miami Seaquarium where she was delivered 37 years ago.

Much has changed in the lives of the Southern Resident orcas, or J, K and L pods. "Granny," one of the elder females of J pod who is thought to be over 90 years of age, lived in a time when abundant chinook salmon runs provided plenty of food, the waters were clean, and the habitat undisturbed. But the impacts of an ever-increasing human population has taken its toll on Granny and her family.

At one time humans feared the orcas, or "killer whales," and they were commonly shot at or used for military target practice. Then in the 1960s and '70s, that fear changed to a realization that orcas were not dangerous killers, but were intelligent and trainable, and the marine park industry was born.

During this period, 45 Southern Resident orcas were captured and delivered to marine parks, and another dozen or more were killed during the captures. Finally in 1976 a count was taken of the remaining population, and it was discovered that one third to one half had been removed, all of them younger whales, the impacts of which are still felt today on this fragile, small population.

With just 71 orcas remaining, the captures were finally stopped, and the Southern Resident population slowly climbed to nearly 100 by the mid 1990s.

But now the orcas faced declining salmon runs and toxic pollution. The starving orcas relied on their stored up blubber for energy, unfortunately unleashing the toxins which had accumulated in their blubber and fat tissues over the decades. From 1995 to 2001, 20 percent of the Southern Resident population died, with the population plunging to only 78 whales.

In 2005, the Southern Resident orcas were listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Their population has crept back up to around 87, but remains very fragile. Large scale efforts are now underway to save this population that has suffered from captures, toxins, and salmon depletion, and finally there is a chance that at least some of the human impacts on the orcas can be positive impacts.

Please join us on Wednesday, Aug. 8, to learn more about Lolita and her family, to hear stories from those who were present during the Penn Cove orca captures, and to raise awareness of Lolita's lonely existence, and the struggles of her family to survive.

The event takes place at the historic Captain Whidbey Inn, on the shores of Penn Cove at the site of the 1970 orca capture, near Coupeville. The evening, from 5 to 8 p.m., will include special presentations and sharing of stories, displays, waterside ceremony, a silent auction, appetizers and wine. Cost is $20 per person, with proceeds going to Orca Network educational programs and projects.

Springer's back so you better get this party started
Victoria Times Colonist - Friday, July 13, 2007

Five years ago, Springer, then a sickly orphan, was rescued from Puget Sound and carried back to Johnstone Strait, where she rejoined her family.

B.C.'s most famous killer whale has shown up in the nick of time.

Yesterday, the seven-year-old orca was near Ripple Point in Johnstone Strait and hopes are growing that she could appear around Telegraph Cove, near Port McNeill, for her own party.

"Her timing is very exciting. Everyone is very happy," said Paul Spong, director of OrcaLab, a whale-research station on Hanson Island.

Five years ago, Springer, then a sickly orphan, was rescued from Puget Sound and carried back to Johnstone Strait, where she rejoined her family.

Nick Templeman of Discovery Marine Safaris Ltd. of Campbell River, who saw the whale yesterday, agreed Springer looks great. "She's out there rocking," he said.

Marilyn Joyce, marine-mammal co-ordinator for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, will be one of the guests at the weekend reunion.

Although it's mostly a celebration, the event is also a chance toIn the end, the success was Springer's -- the operation revealed the incredible bond and cultural links between families of killer whales, Joyce said. (Our emphasis, and a lesson for all about Lolita's prospects to rejoin her family.)

Seaquarium's new dolphin program

"The new attraction is part of the Seaquarium's long term plan to shift its focus away from the animal shows and allow a more interactive experience for visitors."

This expected news that the SQ has built a new dolphin tank and is looking beyond animal shows stirs mixed feelings. On one hand, it could allow them to release Lolita to return to her home and family (though that probably would require the SQ to shut down altogether), but on the other hand, confinement and domination of dolphins amounts to more of the same: abuse of highly evolved, deeply social mammals. It also shows that they have no plans, and probably never did, to build a new tank for Lolita, as numerous USDA regulators and others have believed.

The full story of dolphin swim programs can be found here: What's Wrong With Swimming With Dolphins?

World Society for the Protection of Animals

Love dolphins? Don't buy a ticket! Untold numbers of dolphins die during the notoriously violent wild captures. These captures are carried out in secret - far from the public's eye - so obtaining an accurate number of dolphins killed is nearly impossible. What we do know is that of those dolphins that survive the capture and are brought into captivity, 53% will die within their first 3 months in a tank. Every seven years, half of all captive dolphins die due to the violence of their capture, intestinal disease, chlorine poisoning and stress-related illness. To the captivity industry, these numbers are accepted as standard operating expenses, but if this information was printed on SWTD brochures, it is unlikely that any person who cares about dolphins would purchase a ticket.

If you have heard that dolphins can heal the sick, you should read this: Dolphin-Assisted Therapy: Flawed Data, Flawed Conclusions
Lori Marino, Ph.D and Scott O. Lilienfeld, Ph.D.

"...the current evidence for the efficacy of DAT can at best be described as thoroughly unconvincing. Both practitioners of DAT and parents who are considering DAT for their children should be made aware that this treatment has yet to be subjected to an adequate empirical test..."

Finally, if you're wondering if dolphins are really all that intelligent, see: Cetaceans Have Complex Brains for Complex Cognition Lori Marino, Ph.D, et al.

"We believe that the time is ripe to present an integrated view of cetacean brains, behavior, and evolution based on the wealth of accumulated and recent data on these topics. Our conclusions support the more generally accepted view that the large brain of cetaceans evolved to support complex cognitive abilities."

Orcas are by far the largest members of the dolphin family, with brains four times the size of bottlenose dolphins, so just imagine Lolita's memories and thoughts, almost 37 years after her capture.

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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