Please visit the NEW Orca Network Lolita/Captivity page HERE

This is Lolita, captured from L pod in 1970 and still confined in this tank at the Miami Seaquarium.

First Olympic class ferry shares name with an orca
November 13, 2012 (Watching Our Water Ways)
A female killer whale named Tokitae remains in an aquarium in Miami, but a future Washington state ferry will carry her name for years to come.
The Washington State Transportation Commission named two new ferries today, choosing Northwest Indian names. And both names — Tokitae and Samish — are associated with killer whales, said Howard Garrett of Orca Network, who attended the commission meeting. See the WDOT's news release (PDF 29 kb).
He says naming the ferry could indirectly help the cause of relocating Lolita/Tokitae, although the action carries no endorsement of any kind.
"It demonstrates an understanding and awareness of her predicament, and it honors her and her family" he said. "I think that goes a long way."
October 16, 2012
NMFS will reconsider petition that would free the orca Lolita


Why retirement of an orca held captive for decades would be safe and beneficial
The physical form and function of orcas and other odontocetes were adapted over 15 to 30 million years for long distance travel and acute awareness in vast and thriving ecosystems. Their intelligence developed over eons for lives in large, complex, extended families. Their brains, their cardiovascular systems, their senses, like echolocation, are all the result of millions of years of adaptations for life in marine environments as members of large societies.

Lolita's family is well known, her probable mother is still alive, and there is no reason to believe she and her family would not recognize one another. Other captive orcas whose families can't be located could be retired to bay pens that would provide comfortable, healthy surroundings. Captive born orcas, even if they don't have memories of the natural world, can be cared for in a bay pen and have access to that world. All these captives would gain strength and return to good health in natural seawater suroundings. There's no real risk involved in rescuing any of these captives.

The marine circus industry has promoted gross misinformation to keep possession of their performing orcas.
October 12, 2011
For Immediate Release

Dr. Lori Marino
Atlanta, Georgia
(404) 727-7582

New Video Shows Killer Whales in Captivity vs. in the Ocean

October 12, 2011

As SeaWorld prepares for the next round of hearings in which it defends itself against charges by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) of “willful neglect,” The Orca Project has released a new video that reveals the differences between life for killer whale families in the wild and in captivity.

The video, titled A Better Way to See Orcas, is available at The Orca Project.

The video was prepared by Leah Lemieux, author of the book Rekindling the Waters, and Lori Marino, Ph.D., neuroscientist at Emory University, who has studied dolphins and whales for over twenty years.

Accompanying the video is an eye-opening list of Captive orcas separated from their mothers.

“We want people to see the amazing rich family life orcas lead in the ocean, and how captivity not only destroys individual dolphins and whales but tears whole families apart,” Marino said.

The citation against SeaWorld by OSHA followed an investigation into the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in February, 2010, when killer whale Tilikum dragged her into his tank and killed her over a period of 20 minutes as a horrified audience looked on.

The video shows the difference between life for orcas in the ocean, where they live in large, highly social family groups, and life in captivity, where they live in barren, lonely tanks.

Tilikum, a 30-year-old male orca at SeaWorld Orlando, was taken from his mother at two years of age and transferred from one marine circus to another after killing his first human at a facility in Canada. In the ocean, he would have been able to live with his family his entire life. But captive orcas are forced to live deprived of the natural family life that’s vital to their physical and mental welfare.

“While there have been numerous deaths, injuries and other incidents at these marine circuses,” Marino said, “there’s not a single case on record of an orca in the wild ever having killed anyone.”

The Orca Project is inviting everyone who watches this video to take a pledge not to buy a ticket to marine parks with captive dolphins and whales and to share this important message with family, friends and colleagues.
Have you ever wondered?

Go HERE for a printable flyer to hand out at demonstrations or other gatherings, and HERE for a Lolita fact sheet for basic information about Lolita, the violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and who to contact to insist the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) address these issues and compel the Miami Seaquarium to correct these infractions.

For a clear and concise description of the violations of the Animal Welfare Act found at the Miami Seaquarium whale stadium and tank, see Lolita the Orca; Facts, Legal Issues and How To Get Her Home.

Click here for sample letters and contact information to ask APHIS administrators to look closely at the relevant sections of the Animal Welfare Act, and then inspect the Miami Seaquarium whale stadium and tank, to see the glaring discrepancies and violations of the Act.

Orca Network often gets questions like this one:
This morning I took the opportunity to read the proposal for Lolita's release and am very impressed by the quality of the document. I am left with the question of "what can an individual do at this time?" Letters to who? Money to who? Thanks...
Our short answer usually goes something like this:
There are many answers, mostly depending on where you are, what you do, who you know, how you communicate. In other words look for ways to tell Lolita's story and explain the retirement plan bring her some relief.

The proposal to retire Lolita can be found HERE. The only legal leverage we know of to pry her out of there is by massive public demand that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) enforce the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). You can see the details, along with more background on her life, the infractions that need to be addressed at the Seaquarium, and who to write to HERE.

For an overall, comprehensive review of the scientific facts that show beyond all doubt that orcas simply cannot live healthy lives in captivity, we recommend Killer Controversy, Why orcas should no longer be kept in captivity, Prepared by Naomi A. Rose, Ph.D.

For those of us who are tiring of hearing that zoos and aquariums foster humane or environmental attitudes, here are two serious and scientific looks at those claims:

Do Zoos and Aquariums Promote Attitude Change in Visitors? A Critical Evaluation of the American Zoo and Aquarium Study by Lori Marino, Scott O. Lilienfeld, Randy Malamud, Nathan Nobis and Ron Brogliod (2010).

The Captivity Industry - The reality of zoos and aquariums by Lori Marino, Gay Bradshaw and Randy Malamud (2009).
Jeff Ventre, former senior trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando checks off the signs that captive orcas endure pain and hardship.

1. orca tooth decay and breakage (on steel gates)

2. retinal UV-damage from looking up at the sun (unclear impact)

3. forced social reorganization (wild orcas live in culturally distinct groups that stay together for life) leading to aggression and social strife in captivity

4. increased mortality and morbidity (decreased lifespan)

5. death of 4 humans from captive orcas

6. crippling of John Sillick (crushed), SW San Diego

7. death of Kanduke (1990) from possible mosquito (vector) transmitted viral encephalopathy (only possible from long hours of surface floating)

8. overuse of Tagamet (cimetidine) to decrease ulcers (from stress associated with captivity)

9. overuse of antibiotics leading to opportunistic (fungal) infections

10. collapsed dorsal fins from long hours of surface resting (boredom)

11. degrading and regular manual stimulation of Tilikum to extract sperm

12. the relative social isolation of Tilikum leading to pathological behaviors, including the most recent event

13. exploitation of trainers, who are injured, killed, and grossly underpaid 14. Confinement: Most of the Shamu Stadium pools are not as deep as Tilikum is long

Orcinus orca has suffered much to fulfill the whims of human entertainment. Learning how self-aware and intelligent they are is precisely why their confinement needs to end. Let’s evolve.

August 23, 2010 Orca Network News Release - Extreme stress and frustration are inevitable in captive orcas.

March 7, 2007 CalOSHA report on the near-drowning of a trainer at SeaWorld in San Diego.

When Lolita Comes Swimming Home Again
August 6, 2009 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog)

By Howard Garrett

Hopefully the USDA will inspect and measure the concrete bowl where Lolita has lived the past 39 years and will find it unlawful under the Animal Welfare Act, and $1-2 million can be found to examine her, transport her to a bay pen along the west side of San Juan Island, and set up a care station with a freezer full of fish and professional care staff. It's all been done before and poses no real risk to her or to her family, but many may wonder what will happen then for Lolita.

After her return to her home waters, as she regains her strength and is led out on swims to experience her waters again, Lolita will be the focus of tremendous attention in the Pacific Northwest and far beyond. Of course security at the bay pen will prevent direct observations except by authorized personnel and media, but live webcam coverage and stories about her can be expected to abound locally, nationally and internationally.

When someone reads or sees a story about Lolita they will usually tend to care a little more about how she's doing. The reports will also tell about her family, L-25 and the L-12 subpod as well as all the Southern Resident orcas. People will learn about the orcas' long lifespans, lifetime bonding and no dispersal traditions. They'll hear about these orcas' selective diet - about 80% Chinook salmon and 15% chum - and the need to restore salmon habitat and reduce Chinook catches all along the Pacific coast to keep the orcas around. This alone justifies her return home.

Scientifically, we'll learn if Lolita's family bonds and memories are so strong that she will be able to travel, catch fish and socialize with her family, and we'll see the process of rebuilding the trust needed to do so. If she's not able to rejoin her family, the care station will always be there for her with food and companionship if needed.

Humans live according to their stories, and whales provide great inspiration for all ages to learn more and then act to protect and restore the natural world. When kids hear about Lolita and her retirement where she was raised decades ago, many will want to know more, and will do research and feel moved to write their views about orcas and create artwork about them, developing important language skills and learning how to do good science.

The benefits of retiring Lolita in the Salish Sea won't be easy to measure in dollars, but as a learning and sharing experience among the human community, and as a motivator toward better stewardship and protection of our precious marine environment, Lolita would be a priceless teacher for us all.

See all the Free Lolita Updates since March, 1999

August 7th, 2009 - KING 5's Gary Chittim reports. This week in 1971, orca hunters rounded up dozens of killer whales in Puget Sound in a deadly capture operation. Several orcas died, several were sent off for profit to perform in theme parks. This notorious maritime moment was captured on tape by KING 5 and it eventually helped stop the hunts.

Video of Orca Capture Commemoration event
in Coupeville WA
August 9, 2009, shown on KONGTV, SeattleCoupeville WA, August 9, 2009 (1.4 mg QuickTime Movie).

Below: Shelby Proie on CNN Headline News with Lolita's story.


Newsweek magazine: Free Lolita! A Whale Story

It's been nearly four decades since Lolita the killer whale was snatched from her family in the waters of Puget Sound. Now activists want to bring her home.

For background on the history and goals of the Lolita campaign, please look over a letter to all supporters.

See recent photos of Lolita.

The Lolita Come Home Campaign is a major concern of Orca Network. Lolita, first called Tokitae, is the last surviving orca of 45 members of the Southern Resident community that were captured and delivered for display in marine parks between 1965 and 1973. At least 13 others were killed during captures. A young adult at about 40 years old, Lolita has been maintained at a Miami marine park since 1970. Only Corky at Sea World in San Diego, captured in 1969, has been in captivity longer. To read the entire history of the campaign to retire Lolita and allow her the opportunity to rejoin her family, see all the Free Lolita Updates since March, 1999.
1970 capture Lolita listening
1970 - Lolita's capture. Photo ©Wallie Funk Lolita listening to her family's calls - Photo courtesy NBC

Go HERE for dozens of photos of Lolita
In 1970 a capture team using speedboats and airplanes and lobbing explosives forced the entire Southern Resident orca community into a narrow cove, where they corralled all 110 or so orcas. They chose the young ones to ship to marine parks around the world, and one was delivered to the Miami Seaquarium. First name "Tokitae", she was later given the name "Lolita," and against all odds she has survived these 37 years in a tiny tank that is illegal by the letter of the Animal Welfare Act. The USDA simply combines the width of the show tank with the length of the back tank to arrive at a legal measurement. Lolita's longevity in a tank is extraordinary even by orca standards. Studies have shown that orcas in captivity live much less than half their normal lifespan.

Working with activists around the globe, we've made a lot of progress toward convincing people nationwide and worldwide that it is simply wrong to confine large, family-bonded, long-lived and far-ranging whales to bathtub sized tanks. The deeper problem all along has been to convince people that orcas are capable of returning to their home habitat, IF they are returned to their families. Orcas are much stronger and far more advanced and capable than is generally understood. Their strength is partly due to their cultural bonds and family membership, and the durability of those memories. By returning Lolita to her family she could regain the strength that comes from rebuilding those lifelong family bonds.

While people the world over now understand that captivity is cruel and deadly for orcas, we still need to convince the scientific community and the public that Lolita can safely return to her home and family, in order to convince the owner of the Seaquarium and other decision-makers that Lolita can and must be returned to her family and natural habitat.

Lolita remains a member of her family of birth, the Southern Resident orca community, as demonstrated by her vocalizations that are identical with those her family uses today. She could be safely returned to her home waters to rejoin her family. Here are answers to the question "Can Lolita safely return home?" Much can also be learned from the dozens of rehabilitation and release projects that have been performed worldwide. Especially relevant is this set of protocols designed by Ric O'Barry of One Voice.

Socially and biologically she is capable of gradual reintroduction to her pod. Lolita could be safely returned to her home waters, but objections to her return by the park's owner, apparently based on economic interest and a set of unfounded beliefs often heard from display industry employees, has so far prevented her return.

How will we get her home? Photo ŠKen Balcomb
For the complete background on the tragedy of holding whales and dolphins captive for the amusement industry, please see The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity, produced by the Humane Society of the United States.

Washington State elected officials who support the proposal to return Lolita (Tokitae) to her native waters include: Gov. Gary Locke, Sen. Patty Murray, US Senator Maria Cantwell, US Rep. Rick Larsen, US Rep. Norm Dicks, US Rep. Jim McDermott, US Rep. Adam Smith, US Rep. Linda Smith, US Sen. Slade Gorton, ret., US Rep. Jack Metcalf, ret., Gov. Mike Lowry, ret., Sec. of State Ralph Munro, ret., State rep. Dave Anderson, ret., State Rep. Kelly Barlean, King County Executive Ron Sims, Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, ret., Island County Board of County Commissioners, San Juan County Board of County Commissioners

Organizations in support of the proposal to return Lolita (Tokitae) to her native waters include: Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, World Society for the Protection of Animals, the Dolphin Project, Humane Society of the United States, Earth Island Institute, People for Puget Sound, Progressive Animal Welfare Society, Zoocheck Canada, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society of the UK, No Whales in Captivity (Canada), In Defense of Animals, European Cetacean Organisation, Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators, Orcalab and the Center for Whale Research.

The primary goal of the Lolita Come Home Project is to move Lolita from her present location at Miami Seaquarium to a rehabilitation/retirement facility in an ocean water seapen in Washington State, where she can retire from show business while still receiving the care of humans for her health and safety.

A secondary goal is to reacclimatize Lolita to her native habitat with open water "walks", so she can return to a healthy physical condition and metabolic strength, similar to that of her free-ranging family members.

A third goal of this project is to facilitate Lolita's reintroduction to her family pod members. This will be done acoustically first, visually second, and socially last. It will be up to Lolita to decide whether she wishes to remain in the social company of her family or return to human care.

Act now to return Lolita to her home and family. Send a letter (prewritten by us) to the USDA to persuade them to uphold the law and declare the whale tank at the Seaquarium illegal!

Are you on the Free Lolita update list? Starting March 1, 1999, Free Lolita Updates are the record of the Lolita campaign. To receive Free Lolita email updates just send a message to Orca Network, or just click Join Free Lolita List.
October 22, 2003 - Miami Seaquarium has no record of safety inspections. Seaquarium may be forced to choose between shutting down and major retrofits of the physical plant, in fact basically rebuilding most of the 15 structures including the whale stadium.
September 15, 2003: Miami Seaquarium must fix massive safety violations or shut down

When she looks into your eyes, you can see that Lolita has blue eyes. Photo by Sean Jacobs, September, 2004

Rattle the Cage Productions has produced a brand new website in the format of the other Seaquarium site, called Miami SeaPrison, dedicated to Arthur Hertz and the Miami Seaquarium. Check it out. You'll love it and hate it.


Why Lolita should have a chance to return home!

...and why Lolita COULD safely return home.

Powerful Lolita Documentary!

This documentary tells Lolita's story like none other. It's called Lolita: Slave to Entertainment, produced and written by Tim Gorski and narrated by Valerie Silidker, both of South Florida. This amazing one-hour film follows Lolita's life story, from her capture in Penn Cove in 1970 to her dismal situation today at the Miami Seaquarium, and the efforts by many individuals and organizations to bring her back home. There is new footage of her capture, interviews with those present at the time, and some great animated graphics to illustrate the event.

The documentary features "Flipper" dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, Center for Whale Research director Ken Balcomb, activist Russ Rector and his video of the underside of Lolita's tank and stadium, Ocean Drive Magazine's Jerry Powers, and Howard Garrett of Orca Network, who has championed the campaign to return Lolita to Puget Sound for ten years. This sensitive and beautifully crafted documentary includes some of the best wild orca footage available, giving a sense of what Lolita is missing, and what she could have again.

Order your copy of
Lolita - Slave to Entertainment, on video or DVD
Photos from the August 8 Commemorative Event to mark the
anniversary of Lolita's capture in words and photos

To learn more about Lolita's tragic situation, read:

Life Before Captivity;
Lolita's capture.
and Lolita's life today.

You've heard about the trade in captured orcas. Here's a complete and updated look at killer whales in aquariums and parks, including many photos...thanks to Stefan Jacobs' Orca Home.

Current number of known orcas in captivity: 46

sorted by date of capture/birth
sorted by origin

and...Current number of orcas known to have died in captivity: 157

sorted by date of capture/birth

Altogether at least 134 orcas have been captured for public display. Of those, 123 have died since 1965, and 33 captive-born orcas have died.