Please take three minutes of your time today to make a big difference for Lolita the captive orca’s campaign for freedom.
As announced earlier this week (see Animal Legal Defense Fund coverage), the National Marine Fisheries Service made a proposal on 1/24/2014 to include Lolita under the Endangered Species Act. The Act, which has protected her family pod in the wild since 2005, would likely lead to mandatory better living conditions – and possible rehabilitation and release from Miami Seaquarium – if granted. A two month public comment period has opened on why this captive individual, Lolita the killer whale, should be listed as “endangered.”
Click the link below and then click “Comment Now!” on the right side of the screen to leave your polite, well-worded message for NOAA:
Please try to touch on one or more of the below notes in your comment; simply saying “Free Lolita!” is not as helpful as creating a well-worded argument for her listing as endangered:
1. There is no significant risk to Lolita in at any point in the Orca Network’s detailed retirement proposal plan for her. Before any further steps, she would be assessed by a veterinary team to weigh in on her health. Transporting orcas via airplane is commonly done at aquariums globally and has not been found to result in serious health problems. Lolita would be housed in a sea-pen (netted-off portion of a cove) at first to allow her to readjust to life in the ocean. She would be taught how to capture live fish and allowed to interact with passing pods, if she chose to do so. (Lolita’s pod, the “L-pod”, has been well-studied for decades.)
2. A thorough examination will be conducted by a team of veterinarians and pathologists prior to transport to detect any potential communicable diseases. Assuming there are not, there will be no significant risk to any members of the wild orca populations or other marine life through her reintroduction.
3. Remaining in captivity will result in continuing mental/physical stresses and health problems. Abundant evidence, including peer-reviewed scientific publications, indicate that captivity increases mortality rates for orcas. Due to her loneliness from living without the companionship of another orca for over three decades, and due to her exposure to the midday Miami sun, and due to the incredibly small size of the tank for 40+ years, she is continually suffering as long as she remains in captivity.
Background on Lolita:
Captured off the coast of Seattle in 1970 as a two-year-old, Lolita is currently the oldest orca in captivity. During her time in captivity, she has been held in the smallest orca tank in North America at the Miami Seaquarium, with no shade from the blistering hot Miami sun, performing shows twice a day. She has not been housed with another orca since her companion, Hugo, died in 1980. Orcas are highly social, intelligent beings and many argue keeping Lolita in these conditions is abuse and neglect.
Recently, the debate that the documentary “Blackfish” has stirred up about whether Orcas belong in captivity or not has brought a lot of attention not only to Seaworld, but to other Orcas in sub-standard conditions, such as Lolita. On a comment forum on a new pro-Seaworld article, an anonymous former Miami Seaquarium animal trainer under the username of “Evergreen” has lent some insight into the dismal life of Orcas Lolita and Hugo (Deceased).
Read her whole testimony here.
One particular statement he/she makes about Lolita is particularly heartbreaking:
Lolita, on the other hand, gave up long ago. She was (and I assume still is) very sweet but quite dull. She was like a person who has no opinions. She expertly did her shows and, in between shows, just floated in the tank quietly.
This statement proves what we already know- captivity has broken her spirit. Lolita may still be alive physically, but I believe her real self died long ago. She’s spent so long in that dump, she’s earned her freedom.
in 2010, a tragic event occurred at Seaworld Orlando. Tilikum, the largest Orca to be in captivity, attacked, mauled, and killed senior trainer Dawn Brancheau during an afternoon “Dine with Shamu” show in front of a traumatized audience. Ever since this horrific event, a lot of legal issues have arisen from the practice of waterworks, where trainers enter the water and swim with the captive killer whales. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has gotten involved, and currently there is still continuing court issues going on right now. Since Dawn’s death, waterworks has been stopped at all three Seaworld parks. Regulations for preventing them from entering the water have also been placed.
Despite this, the Miami Seaquarium continues to put its trainers at risk by allowing them to swim with Lolita during shows. ALDF (Animal Legal Defense Fund) has sent a letter to OSHA arguing that the “General Duty Clause” should apply to all US marine parks, not just Seaworld. Along with this, the letter also requests that OSHA looks into safety regulations at the Seaquarium, and pleads that they ensure that the Miami Seaquarium maintains a safe distance between trainers and Lolita during shows.
Waterworks are nothing but dangerous stunts to please the crowds. There is no benefit for the Orcas by having a trainer dive into their tank and stand on their backs. This practice is not only highly dangerous to trainers and puts them at a risk for severe injury and death, it also is degrading to the animal. To stand on the nose of an Orca, or ride on their back screams human domination. There is no educational value to this, and all in all, waterwork is just downright illogical. The top predator of the ocean should be treated just that, not as a cuddly teddy bear, because people have and will get hurt from it.
Most of you by now know that Lolita was stolen from er family in the waters of the Pacific Northwest over 4 decades ago. These brutal practices have been since criticized by both anti-cap activists, Orca scientists, and even some captivity supporters. Thankfully, the public outcry that occurred from these captures in the 60′s and 70′s caused legal action to come about, and capturing dolphins and Orcas for entertainment purposes have since been banned in the United States. However, this does not mean that wild captures don’t still happen. In 2012, three Orcas were captured in Russia, and 2 have since died, leaving only one left. Her name is Narnia, and she’s currently in a Russian holding facility awaiting her permanent captive home as an entertainer. Her capture was an experiment. Russia soon issued a permit to capture 10 wild Orcas in their waters each year. Now, two more rounds of captures have occurred, and now there are currently 8 Orcas at the Russian facility. Different sources have released details about the captures, and what you read, you won’t be happy with. You can find the whole article here, but you’ll have to manually translate it using an online translator. Here’s one particular bit that is most concerning:
Ingrid Visser is one of the most highly respected and credible Orca researchers in the scientific world. She is the founder of the Orca Research Trust, an organization that is dedicated to protecting and studying Orcas, particularly the New Zealand population. Along with making groundbreaking scientific discoveries, Ingrid is also highly involved in promoting the anti-captivity agenda. She recently has traveled to Miami to pay a visit to Lolita and check up on her situation.
This video that Ingrid published gives insight into what Lolita’s life in solitary confinement is really like. Please watch this video in order to educate yourself, as well as share so that others can become more aware of why Lolita needs to be rehabilitated and released back into her family and natural habitat in the wild. Her cause is nothing without support from people like you, so please speak out for her!
Macy’s is apparently falling behind the times and endorsing SeaWorld through a sea-themed float in this Thanksgiving Day Parade. This decision is outraging people worldwide because the truth and suffering behind keeping cetaceans in captivity has recently been brought to public attention due to numerous documentaries and books such as “The Cove”, “Blackfish”, and “Death at SeaWorld”. Please take a few minutes to sign the petition against the float and contact Macy’s via their Facebook page and Corporate headquarters. Most of all, share this information with friends and family. If we all join together we can urge Macy’s to stop promoting exploitation and domination to the millions of children and families who watch the parade each year. Also, consider donating to OPS so they can send a copy of “The Cove” to everyone at Macy’s corporate headquarters. You can also read an article on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Charade here.
On October 10th, there was yet another protest outside of the gates of the infamous Miami Seaquarium, rallying for Lolita’s release. The turnout was great, and there were a lot of energetic and optimistic participators. View a video of the protest here.
Protesting outside of the Seaquarium is vital to the cause, as having people at the physical site creates an idea of how much people really do oppose how Lolita is being treated. Protests also help to generate awareness about her plight to the many unknowing passerby’s that come by the Seaquarium each day. Even if the tourists continue to pass through the gates and pay for their ticket, the seed has been planted that there is a possibility of something not being right. That in itself is enough to change one’s way of thinking. The very best tool we have for freeing Lolita and ending Orca captivity in general is education. When people are aware of the cruelty of cetacean captivity, they tend to avoid it.
Thank you so much to these dedicated faces who are standing up for Lolita. You all are doing a fabulous job, and each protest guides the movement a step closer to giving Lolita something she more-than deserves: Freedom.
As part of a look inside humans relationship with nature CNN will air “Blackfish” on October 24th from 9-11PM EST. Blackfish is a critically acclaimed documentary looking inside the world of orca captivity. Former SeaWorld trainers come forward and discuss the perils of keeping orcas in captivity along with the danger they faced on a daily basis working with apex predators of the sea.
You can learn more about the former trainers that have gone public by checking out their blog “Voice of the Orcas” at: http://voiceoftheorcas.blogspot.com/
Thursday October 10th at 2PM!
Get Details, Contact Info, and Sign Up at:
We know this is very short notice…Film crew from an Australian TV Station would like to do filming of protesters at the Miami Seaquarium. We need all able bodies to show and make a statement that we want for Arthur Hertz to retire Lolita! Come out and show your support!
I’ve never asked this before but its important to get an actual head count. If you are going and will be there in person please choose: Going. If you are supporting our efforts and will be with us in spirit, please choose “maybe” then you can still share our event! Thank you.
We will be protesting at the gate entrance to the Seaquarium. There is a public lot prior to the entrance gate on the right hand side that we can park there and then walk towards the park.
Please bring your posters and be prepared to make some noise. For Lolita!
We all know that ending Dolphin and Whale captivity lies largely in the hands of today’s youth. The next generation will decide whether they will support facilities that exploit cetaceans or not; they will decide whether captivity stays or goes out of business. That’s why anti-captivity advocates invest so much of their time in educating others, especially the younger generations. Luckily, it seems that this education is making an impact in the lives of multiple children, as seen in the case of Georgia.
Georgia is a 10 year old who lives in Austin, Texas. She was intrigued by the movie “Blackfish,” and asked her mother to take her to see the movie. After viewing it, she was transformed into a full anti-cap. Georgia wanted to do something with her new-found knowledge, so she decided to execute a very simple, yet effective plan: create a lemonade stand and donate the profits to deserving anti-captivity organizations. Georgia stayed committed to her stand, and ended up making $104! She decided to split the profits, with half of the funds going to Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, and the other half going to The Orca Network. Lolita’s freedom is a large portion of how The Orca Network spends their efforts. Georgia also went on to participate in the Japan Dolphins Day protest in her town on September 1st, and now has plans to sell homemade dog treats to raise funds for the ASPCA. What a committed young activist!
Getting the word out to your children about the plight of captivity is crucial. There is no way to end this industry without changing the mindset of our younger ones. We cannot change captivity without changing the next generation.