Lolita's Life Before Capture
olita was born around 1965, just about when the fever to catch orcas for public display was catching on. At the time no one had systematically observed Washington's resident orcas, or even knew they were resident, so to piece her story together we will have to use our present knowledge and some informed speculation.
After some hours feeling the pangs of the 400 pound calf nudging her way out of the womb, Lolita's mom, believed to be L25, "Ocean Sun," probably corkscrewed for a few seconds to thrust Lolita out into the cool water. After a few slaps the little baby orca would have quickly learned to breathe safely above the surface. Like all newborn orcas, after 17 months gestation she was well-developed at birth and could swim strongly enough to keep up, as long as she stayed tucked in tight to her mother's flank. Like all baby orcas, her brain was about 4500 cc's in size at birth, about three times the size of an adult human's brain, so within the first few months she was probably learning and remembering her pod's calls and how they scanned their undersea world with high-pitched clicks, and even how to catch fish. She stayed in her mom's slipstream for the first several months of her life while her pod travelled an average of 75 to 100 miles every 24 hours. Lolita often nudged her mom's belly to nurse, prompting her to extrude her mammary teats and squirt milk into Lolita's curled tongue.
By around the end of her first year she began to catch her own fish, but she continued to nuzzle in for the occasional slurp of milk until she was about three years old. Lolita gradually began exploring further away from her mother to play with other young whales or to practice chasing fish, but she always returned to her mother's side for most of each day, especially when the pod slowed their swimming and went into a resting pattern.
For the next few years Lolita grew. She learned the ways of her family. She learned how to help find and corral fish, often taking turns driving food toward one another. She learned the routes to find the best fish and the calmest water depending on tides and wind. Still a juvenile, she was a few years from sexual maturity, though females in her family did not begin mating and conceiving until around 14 years old. She became a full member of her family, and her ten-pound brain, the size of a basketball, took it all in and kept it in her vivid memory.
Then came the tragedies, and Lolita's capture.