The Lolita campaign requires continual expenses for daily obligations and activities, such as printing, travel to deliver presentations or attend meetings, etc. Much of these expenses are part of the operation of Orca Network, including our other programs, such as the Whale Sighting Network, Education Programs, The Langley Whale Center, and the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
In a best case scenario no major expenses are likely to be incurred until preparations begin for Lolita's transport to her native waters. Possible travel expenses to meet with potential donors or contractors are the only expenses expected until that time.
The prospects for Lolita's retirement will depend almost entirely on a determination by NOAA about where she would be safest and best protected. The conventional wisdom declared by the industry for decades is that she's safe in the tank and the relocation to native waters would somehow be dangerous, but there isn't any phase of our retirement plan that is specified as risky. The opinions of scientists and informed writers could be crucial to NOAA having the information and the confidence to mandate that Lolita be returned to her home and family.
When we see a green light from NOAA to go ahead with the relocation of Lolita to her home waters some significant expenses will be required. The overall budget will depend on many contingencies, but some expenses can be anticipated. The budget below is presented in narrative form to explain the contingencies and potential variabilities.
See the transport plan
for details about the following items. Prior to transport, the cost for fabrication of a transport cradle in Miami has been estimated at between $28-40,000. It's possible we could locate and borrow a cradle. We will request that SeaWorld in Orlando allow us to use one of the cradles stored there.
The cost for fabrication of the sling is estimated to be around $2,000.
The cost of contracting for professional services of at least three veterinarians and pathologists selected by NOAA and/or the USDA to examine Lolita to ensure she has a healthy immune system and carries no communicable diseases could amount to approx. $20-30,000.
The cost of air transport is hard to predict, considering the unusual cargo and the potential for services granted gratis in exchange for the massive publicity from the move. UPS moved Keiko to Oregon and said it was the best advertising money they ever spent. We hope to land the C-130, or C17 Globemaster, 747 Dreamlifter, or C5 Galaxy, or Hercules aircraft at Bellingham International Airport (runway 6700'). We will then transport her, still in her sling in her cradle partially immersed in icewater, on a flatbed truck 3 miles to Bellingham harbor, where she will be lowered into a floating seapen approx. 40' by 60' or larger, to be towed by tug the 25-30 miles to East Sound, Orcas Island, where the floating pen will be tied to the stationary pen and the gates opened between them.
Air transport could cost up to $50,000 if not donated.
Truck transport and crane services at both the Miami end and in Bellingham are estimated at maximum $25,000.
Construction of temporary floating pen = maximum $3,000.
Tug services = approx. $2,000.
A fine-mesh net will be needed for holding live and freshly caught salmon. The cost of Chinook salmon from the boat varies from $1 to about $8/lb. She'll need approx. 150 lbs/day, so that means $150 to $1500 per day for fish, so maximum $500,000/ yr., although in all likelihood she'll be catching at least some of her food herself within a few months.
Security personnel will be required, both by land and by sea, which can be unarmed professional staff ready to call authorities in case of any intrusion. Anticipated expenses are approximately $5,000/month.
We estimate about $10-20,000 to contract for veterinary and companion services from Lolita's current staff per month for at least the first several months. Thereafter the project will require marine mammal vets on call if needed.
We'll need a small team of trained professionals to act as guardian/companions for Lolita as long as she chooses to remain in or return to the care station. There are many knowledgeable, competent people who would gladly be her companion, but there will be a need to allocate approx. $20,000/month for her care.
Totals for maximum expenses would run about $916,000 for the first year. If additional funds are needed after a year for salmon or professional services we'll appeal to donors accordingly.
Literally millions of people are eager to see Lolita return to her native habitat, so when the need for major funding approaches, fund-raising is not expected to be problematic.