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Free Lolita Update 130

Lolita Update #130

New WA ferry to be named "Tokitae"
November 14, 2012

The next WA State Ferry will be named the MV Tokitae

Tuesday morning Susan and I went to Tacoma to attend a meeting of the Washington Transportation Commission where the names for the next two new ferries, now under construction, were announced. This is what we were delighted to hear (Orca Network news release):

The Washington Transportation Commission decided Tuesday to name the two new state ferries now under construction the Tokitae (Toe-key-tay) and the Samish. The names keep the tradition of giving ferries regional tribal names. Tokitae was submitted by the Whidbey Island based nonprofit Orca Network, and Samish was submitted by the Samish Tribe.

Deb Lund, Whidbey Island author of children's books, first suggested Orca Network submit the name Tokitae for one of the new Washington State Ferries in 2010. The name was not chosen then, but was popular and ranked in the top five of all names submitted, so Orca Network again proposed the name in 2012. The name symbolizes both the cultural and natural history of Washington, and meets all of the criteria for a WSF name. In the announcement on Tuesday from the WA State Transportation Commission, it was stated the name "Tokitae" came in as the number one choice of all the people, committees, and WA State Ferry staff surveyed. Orca Network gathered over 1500 signatures on a petition to name the ferry Tokitae, including support from people in 44 states and 33 countries; and signatures both from those who want to see Tokitae/Lolita released from the Miami Seaquarium, and the whale trainers who know and work with her at the Miami Seaquarim.

The cultural meaning of Tokitae derives from a Coastal Salish or Chinook jargon greeting, meaning "nice day, pretty colors," used when members of different tribes that have dwelled along the shores of the Salish Sea rivers for millennia met one another while traveling or trading. This meaning also aptly describes the experience one has while riding a WA State Ferry in the beautiful Salish Sea.

In 1970 Dr. Jesse White, a veterinarian employed by the Miami Seaquarium, came to Seattle to select a whale from among seven that had been captured off Whidbey Island in August. According to his daughter Lisa, he bonded with one young female and decided to name her Tokitae, a word he had seen in a gift shop on the Seattle waterfront.

Howard Garrett of Orca Network said "The name Tokitae represents and honors this orca (renamed Lolita after she arrived in Miami) and her family, the Southern Resident orcas that range throughout the Salish Sea and beyond. Some of this extended family of about 84 orcas are seen almost every month of every year, often from the ferries that ply the waters of the Salish Sea."

The orca captures of the 60s and 70s were a sad chapter from our State's history, and contributed greatly to the current endangered status of the Southern Resident orcas. Only 71 orcas remained after 45 were removed and transported to marine parks around the world, and the population has never recovered to pre-capture numbers.

Naming the ferry "Tokitae" after Tokitae/Lolita will honor her, and the 44 other orcas captured from the Southern Resident Community. She is the only survivor of all the whales captured from her extended family - all the others had died by 1987. The honor of naming the next new ferry "Tokitae" is a tribute to her strength and spirit, and an inspiration to all of us to remember her, and her family in the Salish sea.

Orca Network and others continue to work to bring Lolita/Tokitae back home to Washington waters and her family, but in the mean time, naming the next new ferry "Tokitae" will help keep her and others lost in the captures in our thoughts, and maybe someday Tokitae the whale will have a chance to swim in the Salish Sea, alongside the ferry bearing her name.

WSDOT Official News Release about the ferry naming

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.

"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."

2 new WA ferries named Samish, Tokitae
November 13, 2012 (Seattle Times)

Next Washington State Ferry to be Named: Tokitae (Lolita's name at Capture)
November 13, 2012 (

2 new Washington ferries named Samish, Tokitae
November 13, 2012 (KING5 News)

Lolita may be included under
Southern Resident endangered listing

When Lolita's extended family, the Southern Resident orcas, were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2005, a small clause was in the official language that specifically exludes all captive So. Resident orcas. Lolita's excellent legal team has challenged that clause as baseless and illegal, and on October 14 the National Marine Fisheries Service agreed to change it.

Feds to reconsider petition aimed at freeing orca Lolita
October 15, 2012 (Seattle Times)
The federal government has agreed to reconsider a petition aimed at freeing the orca Lolita from captivity at Miami Seaquarium. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) plan to file a new petition asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to include the captive whale within its endangered-species listing for Puget Sound orcas.

Lolita has been performing at Seaquarium since she was captured from Northwest waters in 1970.

Under a settlement agreement filed Friday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal government must decide by specific time periods whether protection for Lolita is warranted. In return, the groups agreed to dismiss its appeal. "This is what we wanted all along. We believe they acted illegally all along in excluding Lolita," Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA, said Monday. "Our belief is that she'll be included (in the listing)."

Feds Agree to Reconsider Plight of Orca at Miami Seaquarium
October 12, 2012 (PETA/ALDF news release)

The new Lolita bumper sticker.

Meanwhile, yet another legal effort is underway to help bring Lolita home.

As the ESA case above winds its way through the courts, yet another case is pending to challenge the annual permit granted by the USDA to the Seaquarium to continue to display Lolita at the whale stadium despite multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act (the size, the lack of protection from the sun, and her lack of companionship). For more information see: Animal Legal Defense Fund & PETA vs. Seaquarium (Note: this case was dismissed on purely procedural grounds without looking at the merits, but that dismissal is being appealed).

The True Story of Lolita: The Captured Orca

Published November 12, 2012 in Miami Pop on-line

She was just a youngster when it happened, enjoying a reunion of her clan, alongside her mother and grandmother with about 90 other relatives nearby. As usual during these big gatherings, they were playing around, nibbling on tasty fish, greeting each other and chatting nonstop in their unique whistles. At first they didn't notice the plane circling above them, but soon they recognized the deep rumbles of high-powered boats coming at them. It was August, 1970 and it wasn't the first time raiding parties had charged at the peaceful orcas, hurling small bombs to push them up against shorelines.

They knew what was coming next: strong nets would crowd them into small spaces, where ropes on long poles would lasso their young. And they knew the little ones would never be seen again.

The orcas tried to avoid that fate by sending adults as decoys in a different direction to distract the capture teams while mothers with small ones ran deep and fast for the open sea, but when they came up for a breath the spotter plane saw them, and soon the boats were upon them. In minutes, they were caught in a narrow cove, where one by one, seven young orcas were wrapped in nets and lifted onto flatbed trucks for delivery to marine theme parks around the world. It took over a week to pluck out the chosen juveniles, and in all that time none of the powerful adult killer whales even threatened to harm any of their captors. They could have left the tragic scene, but they stayed until all the little ones had been removed.

After a month in a holding pen and long plane ride in a metal crate, one young female was lowered into a small pool in Miami. The park's veterinarian called her Tokitae (Toe-key-tay), a native word he had heard in Washington, but within days she was renamed Lolita. She seemed distraught and unresponsive at first, but soon she began learning what her trainers wanted her to do, and within days she was giving them rides on her belly and splashing the noisy crowds on command.

That was over 42 years ago, and beyond all statistical probability (all the others captured from her family had died by 1987) she's still doing the same acts twice a day in the same pool, seven days a week. Between shows she still calls out in the same distinct whistles she learned from her mother, believed to be 84-year old L25, known as Ocean Sun, still living in the waters Lolita was taken from. Orca lifespans are much like humans', so Lolita is still a young adult in good health.

Lolita could still be returned to her home and family, even after all these years. Orcas have very long memories and never forget their families or where they came from. Catching fish is like riding a bike for an orca, and with a carefully monitored exercise program she could rebuild her strength. Some day Lolita might see her mother again.

For more information about Lolita and the prospects for her return, please click HERE . -Howard Garrett

On November 16-18 a powerful Public Service Announcement about Lolita will be shown at a 3-day Nascar Championship in Miami.

This Save Lolita video produced by Daniel Azarian will be presented on the jumbotron at the race track once every hour for each of the 12 hours on each of the 3 days of the races - 36 times, with audio, which is haunting music (Amazing Grace).

On November 1 a hearing was held before a panel of three judges in Amsterdam to review the decision made a year ago to send Morgan, the young orca rescued in June 2010, then illegally shipped to a marine theme park in Spain. The stories below explain the new evidence presented.

A Critical court case for Morgan took place in Holland
November 8, 2012, (Huffington Post)

Ingrid Visser's court presentation shows alarming issues

Dr Ingrid Visser presented startling new findings from her October visit to Loro Parque. Following on the heels of the data and images submitted to the Amsterdam Court, from her June visit, Dr Visser returned to check on Morgan's welfare. Unfortunately, Visser has found that the intervening 19 weeks have showed not only an escalation in aggression from the other orca, but Morgan has begun to exhibit a stereotypical behaviour which has not been documented before. In this case, Morgan repeatedly bashes her head against the side of a gate closing mechanism. Additionally, Morgan's boredom and stress have manifested themselves in an acceleration of tooth wear, with a third of some teeth now permanently damaged and the tops worn off. Blue paint on the teeth clearly shows that Morgan is biting concrete below the water surface. Trainers have been photographed ignoring Morgan whilst she vies for their attention.

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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