Bring the Orca “Lolita” Home – Walk a Mile, Lift a Pint and Show Your Support in Seattle

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Meet on Saturday January 17th, 1 pm. Alki Beach Park, West Seattle.

Gather at 1:00 p.m. at the Statue of Liberty plaza at Alki Beach Park (intersection of Alki Ave. S.W. and 61st Ave. S.W.). Lots of street parking within a few blocks, but give yourself time to park and walk to the plaza, which is located just west of the Alki BathHouse, in the grassy part of the park. Metro bus #50 stops across the street.  
We will walk approximately one mile at a slow pace on wide, level, paved pedestrian walkway, separated from traffic. The route is fully accessible.  Dogs welcome. 
We will have a simple closing ceremony at the end of the route, and then march across the street to the Celtic Swell, a family-friendly pub, to get out of the weather. Talented Seattle singer/songwriter/guitarist Jim Marcotte will share his original song about Lolita and some other good tunes as we warm up and socialize.  Details can be found on the event page.
For decades, people in Washington state (and worldwide) have been working to get “Lolita” out of captivity and back with her wild family.
Lolita has lived in the Miami Seaquarium for decades in a small pool without companions of her own species for most of the time…yet despite petitions, letters and calls to Congress, as well as weekly demonstrations at the Miami Seaquarium, the Seaquarium remains defiant and the government remains mute.

But this year’s walk may finally draw the attention needed to help the big whale in the tiny tank.
Organizers of the “Miracle March for Lolita” point to the increased awareness of orca captivity raised by the documentary Blackfish as well as challenges to the legality of having an endangered species in such dismal conditions as indication that changes are on the horizon.
It is not as if “Lolita” was given a good home or had an easy adjustment, and those factors play in to the deep anger that people feel about her continued confinement.

Eyewitness Account of the Orca “Lolita’s” Traumatic Arrival at the Amusement Park; Whale’s Name Linked to Miami Marketing

Pat Sykes, a former Miami Seaquarium  show assistant from June 1970 to August 1973, describes the traumatic arrival of the newly captured orca Lolita, and shares how  the whale got that name.  By sharing her experience, Pat gives us an unparalleled view into both the harsh reality of how callously this whale was treated, and how the young whale was linked by a powerful marketing agency to the city of Miami’s ‘subtly sexy’ image.

In Pat’s own words:
“Toki [Lolita] arrived at the Seaquarium in the first week of August 1970.  I was fresh out of high school and was one of 3 women hired to be what they called ,”Aquamaids” or “Show Assistants”.
She [Lolita] had a very hard time. She just barely floated.  The skin on her back cracked and bled from the sun and wind exposure.  She wouldn’t eat   the diet of frozen herring.
At night, she cried.
Just across the way swam Hugo, a beautiful juvenile orca who [had] arrived May 1968.  He was in the pre-fab brand new “whale Bowl”, which was a very big deal. First orca on the East Coast.   He heard her and whistled back.  He would swim around the tank faster and faster and smash rostrum-first into the inverted bubble  plexiglass window .  I told my superiors and the men in maintenance, and got dismissed as [being] a flannel headed 18-year-old.  “Oh he will never break it” “It can’t happen”  .
One night “it” did happen.  Hugo hit that bubble,breaking the front of the plexiglass.  510,000 gallons of refrigerated,chemically treated water rushed over his blowhole, almost drowning him.  The front of his rostrum was jaggedly severed.  Doc White did sew it back on with steel stitches but it never reattached.
Press/publicity in those days was handled out of Hank Meyers office, on Miami Beach. Jane Wrigley had the Miami Seaquarium account.  She heard what happened to Hugo, and referred to Toki as a “screaming Lolita”.”

This video shows that by 1971 “Screaming Lolita” and Hugo were sharing the tank – too small for even one whale – where Lolita lives today.


Hugo was also captured from Washington state. He died in 1980 from a brain aneurysm, the result of repeatedly bashing his head against the walls and windows of the tanks. This is where he was confined until he was moved with “Lolita” to the show pool.

Is there any redeeming value to having “Lolita” live at the Miami Seaquarium? Education? Ambassador? Absolutely not.
In the video below the trainer explains that “Lolita” might eat dolphins in the wild but has not eaten the dolphins in her tank…which is so wrong. “Lolita’s” type eat salmon and other fish, not marine mammals. (The trainer explains “Lolita’s” diet around the three minute mark).
The more people who turn up at the walk in Seattle, the louder the message – what the Miami Seaquarium took from the region was wrong, and keeping her is worse.

Shivering Elephants Huddled by a Fire Spark a Giant Blanket Drive

Unseasonably cold weather has the elephants sharing the warmth of fires with their handlers.  Photo courtesy of Elephant Nature Park.
Unseasonably cold weather has the elephants sharing the warmth of fires with their handlers. Photo courtesy of Elephant Nature Park.

Elephants trying to stay warm. Photo courtesy of Elephant Nature Park
Elephants trying to stay warm. Photo courtesy of Elephant Nature Park

When Elephant Nature Park founder Lek Chailert posted on Facebook today about the elephants shivering in the unseasonably cold weather there in Thailand, it was a matter of hours until two animal lovers who are concerned about elephant issues had organized a giant-sized coat drive for the elephants.  
Teresa Bradford and Gert Zagler along with others wanting to help have contacted the wonderful people at The Goat Coat Shop and arranged to have donations sent to make blankets for seven more elephants.  It is a great idea, and a good opportunity for people the world over to show support for those who dedicate their lives to rescuing elephants from harsh treatment.
While the coats are several hundred dollars with shipping costs, even a dollar or two will make a difference. Teresa and Gert’s message:

Who wants to help the elephants at [Elephant Nature Park ( ENP)] in Thailand stay warm?! The elephants need coats this year because it’s been cold. If you can help, please send your contribution via PayPal to info@goatcoatshop.com.

Please specify in the notes that your payment is for elephant coats for ENP. No contribution amount is too small! All funds go towards the coats.

The cost per coat is $250 and approximately $75 shipping per coat. Please [message] Gert Zagler with the amount of your contribution, she will keep track of all contributions. Also, please note this is not a 501c. Thank you so much!

Elderly elephants are particularly vulnerable to cold weather. Photo courtesy of Elephant Nature Park.
Elderly elephants are particularly vulnerable to cold weather. Photo courtesy of Elephant Nature Park.

Lek writes:

This year is not just only cold, but the rain comes to the wrong season and with it a cold wind; some of our old elephants stand shaking. Bua Loi is one of the elephants that shows very obvious shake when she gets cold.
This year Bua Loi got a great Christmas gift from Barbara and Rich Hendele, who ordered the elephant coat to be made by the Goat Coat shop at New York, and they donated this blanket in memory of Ahsi, one of our bull elephants, who Rich and Barbara spent time with when they last visited.
Thank you to Rich, and Barbara , for your love and warm heart that send along with the beautiful Blanket to our elephant. Bua Loi is so proud and she looks quite elegant in her new coat.

Elephant calves play in the mud, no doubt knowing that the adults will help them get warm again!  Photo courtesy of Elephant Nature Park
Elephant calves play in the mud, no doubt knowing that the adults will help them get warm again! Photo courtesy of Elephant Nature Park

Apparently the adult elephants are suspicious when blankets are put on the babies so they can’t be blanketed, but the young ones are able to keep warm by  huddling with the adults.
“The young ones can squeeze with their mother and nanny at night,” writes Lek. “The problem with the little babies when we put something to cover them, then the nannies start to suspect and they start to investigate the coat we have put on their baby. ”
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Lek Chailert, Elephant Nature Park.

Please donate (any amount) to the coat drive via PayPal at info@goatcoatshop.com and specify that it is for the elephants at Elephant Nature Park. Then contact Gert Zagler, she is keeping track of the donations.

About ENP: “The park has received numerous awards from institutions including the Smithsonian. The founder  [Lek Chailert] was named Asian Hero of the Year by Time magazine in 2005 and the park has been featured in many international publications including National Geographic magazine as well as feature documentaries from respected film production companies – Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Animal Planet, BBC, CNN, KTV, RAI, major Thai language TV channels, printed press and radio stations.”