Tag Archives: Lolita the whale

Whales Protest! Southern Resident Orca Still in Small Tank – 42 Years Today

Today (August 8th) is the 42nd commemoration of the disastrous orca capture that snared a young whale and sentenced her to a life in a tiny tank.
She was first given the name Tokitae, which was changed to the cheesy “Lolita” by the Miami Seaquarium. A few years ago, as a reminder that she is a member of the endangered population of orcas, we gave her the honorary number L-pc25 (“L” for her natal pod, “pc” for Penn Cove where she was captured, and “25” for the whale assumed to be her mother L-25, who still swims free).
The whales, for their part, are staging a protest:

To learn more, and to help bring this whale home to her family, consider attending one of today’s events:

Coupeville, Whidbey Island, WA – August 2012 marks the 42nd anniversary of Lolita’s capture from her family, the Southern Resident orcas, in Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, WA.
To commemorate this anniversary, Orca Network is holding our annual event in Coupeville on the waters and shore of Penn Cove to remember all the orcas who died during the captures or in captivity, and to honor Lolita, or Tokitae, the sole survivor of those taken from the Southern Resident orcas, held in a small tank at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970.
On Wednesday August 8th, please join us from 4 – 6 pm, for a ceremonial cruise on Penn Cove, Whidbey Island, around the perimeter of the capture site. Captain John Stone of Aeolian Adventures has generously offered his 52 foot classic ketch, Cutty Sark, for this two hour cruise with special guests (very limited space available – tickets $40/person), and Captain Billy Wind has offered his sailboat Stella Blue as well for those without boats who want to participate in the on-the-water portion of the event, for a $30 fee. You may also participate with your own sail or motor boat, kayak, or rowboat and join our fleet by launching from Capt. Coupe Park in Coupeville, to join our vessels at the Coupeville Wharf for a group departure at 4 pm.
We’ll travel to the capture site in Penn Cove for a wreath ceremony to remember the orcas killed in the capture, and those who have died in captivity. We’ll provide flowers and cedar sprigs to toss into the water, or you may bring your own flower or other eco-friendly offering to toss in the water during the ceremony. The vessels will circle Penn Cove and the capture site, and time/weather permitting, will take a short tour of Penn Cove before returning to the Coupeville Wharf at approximately 6 pm.
Following the on-the-water events, we will gather at the Coupeville Wharf at 6 pm for a few short presentations, music from the Shifty Sailors (6:30 pm), and sharing of stories about the captures, Lolita, and the future of her family, the Southern Resident orcas, and updates on other captive orca news, such as the release of the new book “Death at SeaWorld” by David Kirby.

Whales and Dolphins: Updates on the Stories of 2011

Lolita in her small tank.

Listed below are updates on some of the most compelling stories about marine mammals that occurred in 2011:

*The captive orca “Lolita” (also know as ‘Tokitae’) continues to live in a substandard tank, but a recent lawsuit may bring an end to her captivity based on the fact that she was illegally and intentionally deprived status as ‘endangered’, the status that was granted her wild kin.
*Meanwhile Lolita’s family, the Southern Resident orcas, had a good year, with three new calves and no deaths (the iconic male, J1 who was called ‘Ruffles’ because of his wavy dorsal fin was listed as dying in 2010, although2011 is the first summer he was not seen since records began in the mid 70’s. His imposing presence was missed by all to went whale watching in the Salish Sea this year). J2, Granny, was granted an 100th birthday celebration because her age range is estimated to be close to 100, although she may be as young as 70 years old – still an impressive age.
New calf, J 48, first seen December 17th. (Center for Whale Research)

Dave Ellifrit from the Center for Whale Research reports: ” As far as we know, we should be at 89 whales in the population at the moment after J16 had a new calf (now 27 whales in J pod, 20 in K, 42 in L). The new J pod calf ( J48, first documented by Northwest Fisheries Service on the 17th of Dec) is the only new addition since K44 was born in the first week of July. L90 was seen the last time that group of Ls was in the area back in early November so there is still hope she will be around next year.
Morgan on her way to Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain

*Morgan, the young orca who was rescued but ultimately who lost her bid for freedom is under duress in her present circumstances, and appears to not be accepted by other orcas. She shows what appears to be bite marks from the other whales and is constantly chased, according to reports. (Note, the video showing Morgan’s harassment has been taken down from YouTube).
For more information about this young whale’s tale of woe – rescue, court battle, and eventual loss to captivity, please see ‘ Orca whale Morgan headed to life in captivity, loses court case, loses the chance of a normal life’ and ‘Orca whale Morgan’s fate follows the golden rule: those who have the gold make the rules‘.
Is this appropriate treatment of Tilikum?

*The court trial against SeaWorld in the case of the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau has not been resolved, but arguments are closed and it is before the judge: See Now We Wait, by Tim Zimmermann
*Tilikum, the whale that killed Brancheau, has had an undisclosed illness for the last few weeks, and has not performed regularly. It has been reported that he is in the medical pool at SeaWorld, Orlando.
*Ikaika, the young male orca that SeaWorld won against Marineland (see The Orca Project) in a lengthy court battle seems to have adjusted to life bobbing endlessly in SeaWorld’s tanks. To experience 10 mind-numbing minutes of the life he leads 24/7, please check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7lzA_BIeyw. No need to sit through the whole thing, it barely changes.
*Pregnant orcas – SeaWorld may have three pregnant females sired by an Argentinian male, and rumors are flying that the female who was housed with Ikaika in Marineland is pregnant as well (not confirmed). For more information, see More SeaWorld Orca Pregnancies? :

The use of sperm from Kshamenk, a killer whale who was captured in Argentina in 1992 and now lives at Buenos Aires’ Mundo Marino, is a new wrinkle in SeaWorld’s captive orca breeding program. A majority of SeaWorld’s killer whales have Tilikum’s genes, and there has been a lot of concern about a genetic bottleneck within SeaWorld’s breeding pool. Training Kshamenk to give sperm donations, and using his sperm to impregnate Kasatka and Takara adds completely distinctive Argentinian killer whale DNA to the SeaWorld sperm pool.

*Rave Dolphins – no published results for the cause of death of the dolphins that died following a Rave event at a European amusement park.

8 week movement pattern of the released pilot whales.

*Pilot whales – of the 23 that stranded near Cudjoe Key, Florida in early May just four survived, two male whales were fitted with satellite tags and were  released after being deemed healthy enough to survive in the wild.  One tag stopped working, but the other was tracked for two months.
He moved “a total of about 4100 miles (6022 KM). It moved from the Keys north to off of the South Carolina coast, and back down into the Caribbean. The last few weeks  before transmission was lost were spent off the northeastern coast of Cuba.
The whale made occasional dives to 1,000-1,500 meters, and occasionally stayed down for more than 40 minutes. These are among the deepest and longest documented dives for this species.”  http://sarasotadolphin.org/2011/09/15/freed-pilot-whale-final-update/
Two female pilot whales, Fredi and “300” are the only other survivors and they were both given to SeaWorld. Fredi, the youngest captive, seems to be healthy, but 300 developed a spinal curvature during treatment. Attempts are underway to repair the damage.
*No response from SeaWorld as to the identity of the pilot whales they claim is the original “Bubbles” from the 1960’s. (See earlier post)
*Whaling persists, against all reason. (See Environmental Investigation Agency updates.)
“Only a handful of countries still practice industrial whaling; Iceland is one of them, pursuing endangered fin whales in order to turn a profit. But rumours have persisted that there is a lack of demand for this whale meat in both Iceland and Japan, its main export market. With this in mind, EIA investigators pack their hidden cameras and attempt to locate and understand the driving force behind the trade.”

*Dolphin/whale slaughter continues in Taiji, Japan please sign the petition at Save Japan Dolphins.

*Japan has resumed their whaling sham in the Antarctic, where they claim they need in excess of 900 whales for “research”. Contact http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/whaling/

The Sea shepherd has three ships in the Antarctic in an effort to stop the whaling, one was just damaged by a rogue wave, so two of their ships are out of play while the damaged boat is escorted to Australia for repairs, so one ship remains.
*The Grey whale that spent weeks in the Klamath River died of fungus from being in fresh water so long http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/12/29/BA401MI7AL.DTL
*Fukushima, Japan, following the nuclear incident:Fukushima radioactive ocean pollution update:

It is highly likely that there were continued direct releases from the reactors or storage tanks, as well as indirect releases from contaminated groundwater or coastal sediments, according to the report.
Tokyo Electric Power Company, the owners of the Fukushima reactors, disclosed that 45 tons of highly radioactive wastewater containing strontium escaped from a treatment facility this past weekend.
“This latest news suggests that the releases have not ended, so that is of concern. If the contaminants end up in the marine sediments/muds, then they will remain there for decades to come, and thus potentially be of concern for benthic biota and consumers of benthic fish/shell fish, i.e. any local filter feeders near the source waters at the coast,” said Buesseler

Belugas are highly vocal and are nicknamed “Sea Canaries”.

*The approximate 100 belugas trapped in the ice are still able to find breathing holes and fish to eat, so may survive until a Russian icebreaker can come release them when the weather improves.
Courageous rescuers were honored for their bravery.

*43 year old Michael Cohen, who was bitten by a great white shark and saved by the heroism of strangers (and possibly the presence of a fur seal), may be confined to a wheelchair for the duration of his life due to the loss of one leg and traumatic injury to the other.  His rescuers were awarded recognition for their bravery.
*In the recent New Zealand orcas vs sharks incident it appears as though a pod of orcas was ‘fishing’ for the sharks:

The facts as  I have been able to establish them are as follows:
Location: Blue Cliffs Beach near Tuatapere, Southland
Date: 26 December 2011
No. of killer whales: 6
No. of sharks: at least 6, only one beached but others seen and filmed in the shallows
Species of shark: broadnose sevengill (Notorhynchus cepedianus)
The film and still images I have seen show a large, probably mature female sevengill stranded alive on the beach; an adult male killer whale pursuing and probably capturing at least one other in the surf zone; and a third in the wash. The whale was shallow enough that at times you could see that it was momentarily grounding as the waves drew back.
What appeared to be happening was a co-ordinated hunt of the sharks by a group of up to 6 whales, resulting in a number of sharks attempting to escape them by swimming into shallow water, several of which following the wave run-up into water so shalllow that they risked being stranded (only one did and it was left there to die by the witnesses and the carcass washed out on the next high tide).
I have seen a group of five killer whales hunting this way in Hawke Bay, North Island. They send a ‘sweeper’ in along the shore to flush fish out to the other whales which are swimming line abreast or in an arc offshore. Very effective! In the instance that I saw the ‘sweeper’ was also an adult male, and it possible that the whales involved in the Boxing Day hunt was the same pod.
Regards
Clinton Duffy
Scientific Officer (Marine Species-Fishes)
Marine Conservation Team
Department of Conservation

Please email me at candace.whiting@gmail.com if there is a cetacean story that might have been missed, and have a terrific new year!
Thanks to the Orca Network for catching a typo, and for all the great work you do!

Endangered Orca Whale Lolita at Risk – Miami Seaquarium Makes a “Rave”-ing Lunatic Decision

This week it was reported that two dolphins died at an amusement park in Switzerland following the loud noise of the music and possible drugging by partying guests (see previous post) when a two day Rave event was held there, yet the Miami Seaquarium refuses to alter plans to hold a huge loud party on their grounds on November 25th.
From a business point of view, and given the sheer numbers of event planners and guests involved, it is easy to understand that changing venues at such short notice would be difficult. Yet you can’t help but wonder why the seaquarium agreed to hold the event on their grounds in the first place – even though the event, the White Party, is designed to raise money for HIV/AIDS awareness, the bottom line is the same – it will be loud and presents a real hazard.
“Miami Seaquarium is proud to welcome all the White Party Week guests to South Florida with this special offer to get in the water with dolphins for a truly memorable experience,” said Eric Eimstad, Vice President of Marketing at the Miami Seaquarium. (sfgn.com). It is all about the money that the partyers will bring – for instance the opportunity to swim with a dolphin costs $199.00 plus tax.
There will be loud music all night, hordes of people under the influence of one thing or another, and to cap it off, fireworks.

Lolita's small pool has no cover and no way to escape the noise.

Having to endure this is Tokitae,  a member of an endangered orca population.  Her stage name is “Lolita”, and she will be in a nearby pool.
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund:

Lolita is an orca who has been living in a barren tank at the Miami Seaquarium for the past four decades. She has had no orca companions since 1980. She was captured in the wild in the 1970s, from the “Southern Resident” killer whale distinct population segment.
Despite the fact that her pod is considered endangered and as such enjoys the protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) has chosen to exempt the captive members of her species from ESA protections. NMFS has provided no reason for this regulatory exemption.
NMFS’ failure to provide Lolita with the protections enjoyed by the wild members of her pod has enabled the Miami Seaquarium to keep this highly intelligent and social animal in conditions that violate the Endangered Species Act. NMFS has clearly stated that the Endangered Species Act “applies to both wild and captive populations of a species.
Urge the NMFS to include captive members of Lolita’s Southern Resident pod in ESA protections provided to pod members living in the wild.

Hopefully the seaquarium will have security guards present, and will have trainers there to watch over her for signs of stress, because this event may cause problems for her or the other dolphin species at the amusement park.  You can contact the Miami Seaquarium to lodge a complaint about the planned event, it just takes a minute or two.
Go to: Sign the petition to take action now to help with Lolita’s legal defense.

Violent Dolphin Capture Caught On Video

(Update of a previous post)
The capture of the Southern Resident orca L-pod member, now known as “Lolita” and living at the Miami Seaquarium, was a horrifying event in which several of her family members were killed, their stomachs slit, filled with rocks, and the bodies allowed to sink. Those readers who follow this blog have probably noticed that I try to stay away from this type of really graphic information, and I do find solace in knowing that the Southern Resident orcas are now protected from that kind of violence at human hands. But the cruel practices of whaling and of capturing cetaceans continues to take place in other regions, and SeaWorld and other amusement parks have been tied to this international trade.
Two days ago (9/7/11), the violent capture and killing of dolphins resumed.  Below is a celebrity plea for you to get involved, and below that is actual video of the capture and killing method.


DOLPHIN – MY FRIEND – PSA — WATCH IT! from Dolphin Project on Vimeo.
From activist Ric O’Barry (savejapandolphins.org):

The Japanese government allows about 20,000 dolphins to be caught each year and defends the hunts as traditional, but most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat.
The fisherman does appear to stab the dolphin behind its blowhole. But the dolphin’s death is far from quick, and couldn’t under any circumstances be considered humane. You’ll see how many of the dolphins desperately throw themselves on the rocky coastline in an effort to escape, or perhaps hasten their own inevitable death.
According to a spokesperson with the Japanese Fisheries Agency, this method “kills the dolphins instantly.” In fact, the video footage shows dolphins thrashing in agony for long minutes, amid their own blood and the screams of other dolphins being killed.

*****WARNING*****GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING VIDEO*****BUT IT IS THE REALITY OF CAPTURE*****


*For information on what you can do to help, go to Save Japan Dolphins.

Dutch Judge Rules In Favor of the Rescued Orca “Morgan” (Updated 8/17/11)


The young orca Morgan

(See bottom for update) In an unprecedented ruling, Dutch judge H. Kijlstra blocked the attempt to move the young orca Morgan to Loro Parque, a Spanish amusement park that is closely tied to SeaWorld.
He went a step further and ruled that the whale has to be moved from her small tank to a larger one where she will have dolphins as companions, in order to give her the best possible circumstances while long term decisions can be reached regarding her welfare.
Finally, he ruled that the interested parties will need to work together to come up with the best solution for the whale.
Again:  he ruled that the whale’s best interests are paramount, and not the interests of any and all people and amusement parks that might benefit from keeping her in captivity:

Court blocks export of rescued whale
“This is a massive victory,” said Wietse van der Werf of the Orca Coalition of Holland, an ad hoc advocacy group.
“This is the first time in history that the export of an orca has been blocked by a judge. It exposes the international trade among dolphinariums as a very lucrative industry.”
The Amsterdam District Court ruled that Morgan, a killer whale 3 or 4 years old who was due to be shipped to a Spanish amusement park, would remain in the Harderwijk Dolphinarium for now, but would be moved from her small cement tank to a larger enclosure with other animals.
The court ruled that more research be conducted to find a solution for Morgan, and ordered the dolphinarium, the government and the animal rights activists who filed the case to work together.

Wietse van der Werf (right) and others worked tirelessly in Morgan's behalf.

To find out more about Morgan and to join the remarkable international group of people working to secure Morgan’s future, please go to the Free Morgan website.  They are up against the resources of wealthy institutions such as SeaWorld, and they need your help to continue to work towards Morgan’s release to the wild.
Although financial contributions are always appreciated, remember that you can make a difference in other ways – writing letters, posting to your Facebook pages, holding fund raising events in your community.  Just use your imagination and join in!
Update 8/17/11:

“The Dolfinarium Harderwijk has ignored the judge’s directions and has done nothing towards moving Morgan into a larger enclosure,” Dr Visser said.
“They have refused to release any of her health records, her DNA profile or her acoustical records which would help to get her back to her extended family. Her mental health has deteriorated a lot. She is now screaming so loud that it is ear-piercing and she is exhibiting stereotypical behaviours nearly 90 per cent of the time I was watching her.”
Stereotypical behaviour is a term for frequently repeated actions typical of animals held in confined spaces with little to do.

Penn Cove Orca Capture Anniversary Commemoration August 7th

Penn Cove Capture

Coupeville, Whidbey Island, WA – August 2011 marks the 41st anniversary of Lolita’s capture from her family, the Southern Resident orcas, in Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, WA.
To commemorate this anniversary, Orca Network is holding our annual event on the waters and shore of Penn Cove to remember all the orcas who died during the captures or in captivity, and to honor Lolita, or Tokitae, the sole survivor of those taken from the Southern Resident orcas.
We are excited to announce special guest Jenny Cunningham, producer at PBS’ KCTS 9 TV, Seattle, who produced “Saving Lolita” for KCTS Connects in 2008. Jenny will be onboard the Cutty Sark for the ceremony at the orca capture site on Penn Cove, and after the on-the-water ceremony will show “Saving Lolita” at the Coupeville Wharf, and talk about how the captures will be a part of her next project about orcas for KCTS.
The commemoration will take place in two parts.
First, on Sunday afternoon August 7th from noon – 2 pm, join us on Penn Cove for a ceremonial cruise around the perimeter of the capture site. Captain John Stone of Aeolian Adventures has generously offered his 52 foot classic ketch, Cutty Sark, for this two hour cruise with special guests (very limited space available – tickets $30/person), and Captain Billy Wind has offered his sailboat Stella Blue as well for those without boats who want to participate in the on-the-water portion of the event, for a $15 fee. Or you may bring your sail or motor boat, kayak, or rowboat and join our fleet by launching from Capt. Coupe Park in Coupeville, to join our vessels at the Coupeville Wharf for a group departure at noon. We’ll travel to the capture site in Penn Cove for a wreath ceremony to remember the orcas killed in the capture, and those who have died in captivity. We’ll provide flowers and cedar sprigs to toss into the water, or you may bring your own flower or other eco-friendly offering to toss in the water during the ceremony. The vessels will circle Penn Cove and the capture site, and time/weather permitting, will take a short tour of Penn Cove before returning to the Coupeville Wharf at approximately 2 pm.
Following the on-the-water events, we will gather at the Coupeville Wharf from 2 – 4 pm to watch Jenny Cunningham’s “Saving Lolita”, and for a few short presentations and stories about the captures, the orcas, Lolita, and the future of her family, the Southern Resident orcas, and updates on other captive orca news. The event is free to the public, though contributions to support Orca Network’s educational programs are appreciated. Hoodsport Orca Wine may be purchased in the Wharf breezeway, and participants may purchase snacks or lunch/dinner at Kim’s Cafe and Local Grown, conveniently located on the Wharf.
Contact Orca Network at info@orcanetwork.org or check out our website www.orcanetwork.org for more information and updates, or to reserve your space on one of the sailing vessels.
###
Susan Berta & Howard Garrett
Orca Network
info@orcanetwork.org
www.orcanetwork.org
1-866-ORCANET
Orca Network – Connecting whales and people in the Pacific Northwest
Orca Network is dedicated to raising awareness about the whales of the Pacific Northwest,
and the importance of providing them healthy and safe habitats.
Projects include the Whale Sighting Network and Education Programs, the Free Lolita Campaign,
and the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

The Orca Project Is Increasing Pressure to Free the Captive Orca “Lolita”

Celebrity Bob Barker, former host of ‘The Price Is Right’, has added his voice to the growing chorus against keeping whales and dolphins in captivity – he recently donated over two million dollars to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and made a public service video (see below). Groups such as The Orca Project are emerging as strong proponents against captivity and are working with long time advocates such as Orca Network and Save Lolita to increase the pressure to return captive whale “Lolita” to her family – and are counting on your help.

(Courtesy Orca Network)

Lolita, the captive Southern Resident orca, was violently taken from her family decades ago and is forced to live with dolphins in a sub-standard pool at the Miami Seaquarium. Dozens of organizations have been working to gain her release but have gotten the same run around from government officials who maintain that the whale is adequately cared for – but recently The Orca Project has decided “… we are taking the fight to the next level and to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the USDA internal auditor that has cited the Eastern Regional Division of APHIS for not enforcing the law, not finding violations, and not assessing fines.”
They are asking for your help (see the full article, http://theorcaproject.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/usda-aphis-fails-killer-whale-lolita-at-miami-seaquarium/).

A call to action, and what you can do to help.
The Office of the Inspector General has a “Hotline” for reporting violations related to USDA programs such as; fraud, employee misconduct, mismanagement, conflict of interest, etc. The hotline tips can be submitted online, by email, by phone, by mail. Here’s the link to the OIG’s hotline: http://www.usda.gov/oig/hotline.htm
Below are sample letters to APHIS Administrators
http://www.orcanetwork.org/captivity/aphisletters.html
http://theorcaproject.wordpress.com/how-to-help/lolita-40-years-in-captivity/
Press Release by Orca Nework:   http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs077/1101447505873/archive/1105850825303.html
What else YOU can do:
*Tell your friends and families not to visit or support Marine Mammal Parks like Miami Seaquarium, SeaWorld and Six Flags.
*Call your Congressman and elected officials and tell them not to support Marine Mammal captivity. To locate your government officials, click  here.
Additionally, Hunter Shaffer, a 13-year-old disabled activist from New York State who is dedicated to retiring Lolita to her native waters in Washington, says, “Orcas are highly intelligent and social marine mammals that typically swim 75-100 miles a day and repeatedly dive to several hundred feet. Lolita is alone and cannot swim any distance except in tight circles in a pool that is not as deep as she is long.” Shaffer has gathered over 1,700 signatures on a petition asking APHIS to help “retire Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium, and rehabilitate her in Puget Sound.” Please sign and share widely.

Although Barker may be targeting SeaWorld in his remarks, it looks as though the video may have been filmed elsewhere – which only shows that all theme parks that display whales and dolphins should be avoided.

Orca Whale “Lolita’s” Condition Shrouded in Mystery: How to Prevent This Situation in the Future


For over a week the Miami Seaquarium has been tight-lipped about why they pulled their star performing orca from display, only reporting that the whale has had a flare up of the chronic toothache that has bothered her since 1994.  Observers have reported odd comings and goings, including the arrival of a helicopter carrying four individuals with backpacks on Sunday (complete story can be found at the Orca Project).  When inquiries are made to the amusement park, concerned individuals and media alike are given the same message – “Lolita has a toothache, is being treated with antibiotics, and is eating normally”).  Yet visitors are told that the tank is undergoing repairs by some employees, and some visitors have seen or heard the whale working with trainers.  All this has caused upset and frustration to those who are concerned with the welfare of captive orcas, and the attitude of indifference from the staff at the theme park has put a match to the short fuse of tolerance exhibited to this point by activists.
The Seaquarium’s petulant meta-message is that they consider the orca  to be their property and that they don’t have to say or do anything they don’t want to;  but like a child who can’t resist poking a hornet’s nest they might just find out that their handling of this situation is about to cause them real difficulty. They have flipped a virtual finger at the world, and certainly no one appreciates that little gesture.
To date, people have lit candles, protested, had call-ins, and held community rallies, all in an effort to get some accurate information – to no avail – and are now looking to legal means to force compliance from the Seaquarium.
The best bet?  A simple modification of a tiny sentence buried in a government document will do the trick to force compliance and open communication. In 2005,  “Lolita” was deprived of the status of ‘endangered species’ when the rest of her family was granted it, a status which would force the Miami Seaquarium to obtain permits before transporting or breeding her, and would have allowed for more thorough inspections.  A handful of public employees made this decision, no doubt with input from the amusement parks that exhibit orcas:
69910 Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 222 / Friday, November 18, 2005 / Rules and Regulations
“Based on the best scientific and commercial data available, the comments received, and after taking into account efforts being made to protect Southern Resident killer whales, we (NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)) are listing the Southern Resident DPS as endangered. The Southern Resident killer whale DPS [Distinct Population Segment] will be listed under the ESA [Endangered Species Act] as endangered as of the effective date of this rule.
The Southern Resident killer whale DPS
does not include killer whales from J, K
or L pod placed in captivity prior to
listing, nor does it include their captive
born progeny.”

(“Lolita” is the only whale to which this applies).
The standards for the Animal Welfare Act are set by Congressional legislation; responsibility for a specific whale or whales in general can be changed only via legislation. Because “Lolita” was captured prior to the enactment of the marine mammal protection act, she is also deprived of the rights given to all free roaming marine mammals today.  But here is the good news, these laws can be changed by an act of Congress – just another short sentence or two amending the Endangered Species Act will do the trick, and this is done frequently and easily.
It is my hope that someone will organize a campaign to lobby Congress, but in the meantime call or write your members of Congress and asked to have this situation fixed.  No matter how you feel about keeping whales in captivity, the idea that a few corporations could influence our laws is just plain un-American.

Creative Commons Photo

More information on the specific laws:
Quick Summary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Cynthia Hodges, J.D., LL.M., M.A. (2010)
With certain exceptions, the ESA protects endangered and threatened species from extinction by prohibiting the importing, exporting, taking, possessing, selling, and transporting of such species. It also prohibits the destruction of their critical habitat. ESA provisions are enforced through the use of citizen suits, imprisonment, fines, and forfeiture.
Detailed Discussion of the Laws Affecting Zoos Kali S. Grech
The laws currently in place to protect zoo animals have proved inadequate thus far. While the AWA does purport to protect the welfare of animals, only minimum standards exist, and even then, huge classes of animals are exempted from the provisions. Other statutes regulating transport and documentation of zoo animals apply only to animals specifically listed. With regard to the existing statutes, ineffective enforcement, resource shortages, and the lack of citizen suit provisions to allow concerned parties to argue on behalf of zoo animal welfare hinder the process. Voluntary standards are admirable, but not required. And in light of such exposes as “Animal Underworld,” all laws, regulations, and voluntary standards seem to be ineffective in truly protecting zoo animals. Unfortunately, under the existing circumstances, this means that zoo animals suffer simply so patrons can observe them at the zoo, which is an unfair lifetime sentence for any innocent, sentient being.
Overview of Laws Concerning Orcas in Captivity Lauren Tierney (2010)
The issue remains not of the whether facilities and organizations are following the law, but of the adequacy of the laws themselves. The minimum requirements of an orca enclosure are that it must be twice the length of the orca housed within.  Is this an adequate standard for an animal that is capable of swimming over 100 miles in a single day?  One whale expert claims that building a tank the size of Rhode Island would not be adequate to house a mammal capable of swimming one hundred miles a day (See Tilikum’s Law).  The depth of the enclosure must also be only that of half the length of the whale.  Is this an adequate standard for a whale capable of diving hundreds of feet below the surface and typically spends most of its time under the surface of the water?  It is difficult to file and win a case against a facility who is legally meeting all of the required standards.
Brief Summaries of Federal Animal Protection Statutes
Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972,
16 U.S.C. §§ 1361-1423h

The 1994 statute also amended 16 U.S.C. § 1374 to provide that the Secretary
of Commerce may issue permits “to take or import a marine mammal for the purpose
of public display only to a person which the Secretary determines … is registered or
holds a license issued under” the Animal Welfare Act. The effect of this provision
apparently is that the Department of Agriculture rather than the National Marine
Fisheries Service is authorized to regulate such marine mammals once they are held
in captivity. 108 Stat. 537 (1994).21

(21 This provision was opposed by animal rights advocates, who took the position that
“NMFS has years of experience in monitoring this act, as well as other marine mammal
issues. In contrast, the USDA has lacked both the commitment and ability to protect animals
under the federal Animal Welfare Act.” Animal Legal Defense Fund, The Animals’
Advocate (spring 1994) at 2.)

Captive Orca “Lolita” Unable to Perform Due to a Tooth Abscess: Why This Is Serious

“Lolita”, the captive Southern Resident orca now living in the Miami Seaquarium, was pulled from shows this week in order to recuperate from procedures associated with treating an infected tooth, and although the Miami Seaquarium will only admit to giving her antibiotics, the usual procedure for treating these issues is much more draconian and inconceivably barbaric.  “Lotita” must be very sick, or must have had something major done in order for the amusement park to bench their money making star attraction – not just because of the loss of revenue, but captive animals need stimulation to alleviate the boredom and loneliness…and the only thing worse than having a horrible toothache is to have nothing whatsoever to take your mind off of the discomfort, 24/7.

Although a tooth infection may seem like a relatively insignificant issue, there is mounting evidence that complications from dental problems may be partially responsible for the shortened lifespan of captive whales and dolphins. “Lolita” potentially could die from this problem, and at the very least has a whole new layer of suffering to endure in her life of captivity. (For suggestions on what you can do to help, please see the end of this article).
The following is taken from an article by The Orca Project , an excellent source for thoughtful, well researched and written articles:

“The Hidden Cost Of Captivity- Oral Health of Killer Whales Exposed

by theorcaproject

Part of our mission here at The Orca Project is to delve into the detrimental effects that captivity brings to orcas and other cetaceans at marine mammal parks. In this installment we take a look at the oral health of orcas (Killer Whales); the pervasive degradation, its causes and potential consequences.

Poor Orca Oral HealthOrcas in Captivity and Oral Degradation. Note the worn, drilled teeth


SeaWorld, Six Flags and other marine mammal parks have managed to keep this cloaked in relative secrecy: Broken and fractured teeth usually occurs from common threat displays known as “barking” or “jaw popping” as they chomp down on steel gates that separate orcas in an effort to establish dominance. Dental fragments have been retrieved from the bottom of the pool after such displays and while this behavior can temporarily alleviate stress, it generates additional stress in the long run — a vicious cycle.

Compounding damage from grinding.Chronic pain associated with poor dental health can lead to destructive behaviors such as grinding down the jaw itself.

Few people are aware of the practice where captive orcas routinely have holes drilled in their teeth (Pulpotomy) as well as “grinding” or “flattening” of their teeth, and fewer more understand, or have even thought about, how the holes are drilled.  Trainers are forbidden to speak of this practice publicly. SeaWorld trainers use a variable-speed tool (similar to a Dremel tool) to perform this Pulpotomy with a stainless drill bit attached.

The whales are conditioned to “accept” the noise, heat, vibration and obvious pain associated with drilling vertically through the tooth column and into the fleshy pulp below. Success is measured by blood spilling out of the hole, in which case it’s apparent the bore is complete.  – Former SeaWorld trainer.

Once the teeth are cracked, it leaves pulp exposed which will lead to infection unless treated.  Since they cannot perform a root canal on a captive killer whale, they perform a pulpotomy.  This entire procedure is performed without a local anesthetic for reasons which are not fully understood. For example, while the teeth of many of SeaWorld’s orcas are in “train-wreck” status, drilling and flushing routinely takes place regardless of whether the teeth are infected or in need of this procedure. The training and education staff at SeaWorld contends that the thrice daily “tooth flushes” are “superior dental care”. What they don’t tell you is that the teeth have holes in them, and if the impacted fish isn’t flushed with a Waterpick daily, an infection would likely occur. This is done by filling the reservoir of a device with a Betadine solution which is pumped down into the jaw. In the case of Tilikum, the orca involved in the February 24, 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, this procedure is, or was, performed three times a day.

Lolita, Miami SeaquariumLolita: After 40 years in captivity, her isolation, devoid of social dominance issues may factor in her overall good dental health.

Although Lolita, the sole orca at Miami Seaquarium has endured 40 years of captivity and has been subjected to numerous other detrimental issues… her teeth appear to be in remarkably good form; the front teeth are barely erupted or worn down. Perhaps this is due to Lolita’s isolation, and lack of a need for social-climbing (no competitors in her facility) or other available mechanism of injury resulting from social-climbing and/or threat displays such as “Jaw-popping”. The absence of these captive environment conditions also holds true for orcas in the wild that do not suffer the same oral degradation as seen in their captive counterparts. When compared, there is a significant prevalence of fractured and broken teeth in captive orcas which can be directly related to their confinement.

SeaWorld, for example, routinely does the following to conceal the teeth issue:

  1. They will use a juvenile or dominant orca with good teeth for all public photo shoots.
  2. They will create an angle where the photographer can only see the top jaw (in many cases the damage is to the lower jaw only)
  3. They won’t let anyone close to an animal, citing “safety” reasons (ironic, given their safety assurances).
  4. They sell the public on “superior dental care” as they often perform the tooth flush husbandry behavior publicly several times a day.
  5. PR pictures were always done mindful of avoiding mouth close-ups for fear of inadvertent disclosure.”
Wild Orca Skeleton

What you can do:  Go to SaveLolita.com, there you will find links and ways to participate.  Or come up with your own ideas and share them – lately people have been photographing, videotaping, and writing new ideas; today Stephanie Kuwasaki put together this flyer for anyone to download, post, and share, (Orca Network has a pdf version available):

Stephanie Kuwasaki created this flyer for anyone to download, print, and share.

Miami Seaquarium Caught on Video Expressing Indifference to the Orca “Lolita’s” Poor Living Conditions.

There is a running joke based on an amusing animated video in which a concerned biologist is trying to talk to Miami Seaquarium owner Arthur Hertz about Lolita, the captive orca.  In the cartoon Hertz keeps saying “You are an activist!” in an attempt to nullify the arguments and discredit the biologist, but which only succeeds in the Hertz character making itself look dumb. In real life, the theme park’s attempt to label concerned individuals as activists and sweep everyone under the same rug is an old tactic that just doesn’t work in the digital age, an age when people everywhere can learn and communicate in near real time, and in an age when anyone with a cell phone or camera can record, document, and share what is going on in these amusement parks.
The tide of public sentiment has turned against keeping whales in captivity in such appalling conditions , and ‘activists’ are everywhere expressing this in creative ways, showing that making a difference may be as simple as picking up a phone as this teen activist does:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke0Z0uqwwU8&NR=1
Or with a video camera as this adult activist does, first in 1995, but recently updated:

Or with video editing skills as this activist shows:

“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.”  (Patricia Sykes on Lolita’s arrival at the Seaquarium).
So think about what you can do, do it, then call yourself an ‘activist’.  It is a complement.