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:
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.

Orcas Sighted Near Bainbridge Island [Watch KOMO4 News] 2/23/2011

Orcas were spotted from shore close to the east side of Bainbridge Island this morning, between 8 and 9.
Check back for updates-
Update 11:55:

Orca Network John Rogstad @ WSFs reports 1 pod of 5+ orcas frolicking/milling off Magnolia Bluff near 4 mile rock; and another pod of 5+ orcas at Edmonds, east of the [shipping] lanes heading south at 11:38 am.

Update 1 pm :

Quick post: pod traveling north at Scatchet Head Bouy [South end of Whidbey Island]

Update 2:30 pm:
Orca Network Thanks. KOMO TV got some chopper views for the evening news. [There may be more than one group down in Puget Sound, keep an eye out!]

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”.”
By Patricia Sykes

* Hank Meyers was a famous Miami publicist, involved in building Miami’s image.  He followed on the heels of Steve Hannigan, the man who launched Miami into the nation’s awareness by marketing it as a city with “subtle sex appeal”.  It sounds as though Meyer’s office thought the name “Lolita” fit nicely into Miami’s image.  (More information here).
A video of “Lolita’s” early days, after she was united with Hugo:

Increasingly, Lolita is being called by her original name  (Tokitae, or Toki for short) again and the two are often used interchangeably (see previous post on her name).  But ultimately there is just one name for the continued confinement of this whale: inhumane.
Thank you Pat for sharing your experience with us all, and stepping forward to make a difference for the lonely whale “Lolita” who lives in a tiny tank.

Rumors of the Death of the Iconic Orca J- 1 May Be Premature

J-1 is one of the most well-known and beloved of the Southern Resident orcas, and was the first J-pod orca to be identified and cataloged by the Center for Whale research in the 1970s.  He is a large male, and his trademark 6-foot dorsal fin is contoured into waves – earning him the nickname “Ruffles” – and he is easily the most familiar and sought after orca among the Southern Resident population.  He has a loyal following of onlookers who have been known to spend hours in the areas where his pod often passes close to the shores of the San Juan Islands in hopes of getting a glimpse of him and his family. His presumed mother is J-2, the oldest of all the Southern Resident orcas (possibly 100 years old).
He often swims alone, and can be miles away from the rest of his family so although the scientists are concerned by the lack of winter sightings of this whale, they are not yet ready to declare him dead.  Let’s hope that he appears soon, and much like Mark Twain would be able to say “The report of my death was an exaggeration”.

The following is excerpted from The Center for Whale Research’s current status report (available soon).  [Update: The official status report is now available, click here .]

“It is still too early in the year to have an official population estimate as not all individuals have been accounted for.  However, there have been several encounters and sightings of J pod where J1 has not been seen or photographed.
J1 is the oldest male in the southern resident community, estimated to be 57 to 60 years old.  He is an iconic figure for the entire population and by far the most easily identifiable whale.  His tall wavy fin has given him the name “Ruffles” and made him a favorite among visitors and local whale enthusiasts.   He was last seen on November 21st off Victoria.
Although there have been several encounters with J’s over the past few months, the pod configuration has been spread out and all individuals were not photographed.  Although J1 is most often seen in the presence of J2, the eldest female in J pod, he is frequently sighted off on his own far away from the rest of the pod.
At this point all we can say is that J1 is officially missing.  We will be keeping an eye out for him as we head into spring and encounters and sightings increase.”

Orca Network: Look for J pod Orcas on KING 5 News Tonight. 2 /21/2011

Orca Network J pod was reported in Pt. Susan – they were off Warm Beach at ~1:10 pm, then turned south & were mid-channel, off Kayak Pt. at 2:10 pm heading south quickly.

Check back for updates, the last report was north of Marysville, but they were headed towards Seattle-
Update 4:1o pm

Spotted members of J pod heading south along the eastern side of Camano Island at 3.30pm. They should be nearing the southern tip of Camano Island soon.

About Orca Network:

Heartwarming Orca Rescue in New Zealand

Recently a young orca was rescued from entanglement in “cray pot” lines in New Zealand, a story made more touching by the fact that when the rescuers arrived on the scene the juvenile orca’s pod was involved in helping the young whale  to stay alive.  The orcas seemed to understand that the people were trying to help, and waited quietly while the juvenile was freed:

Men rescue tangled orca

170211 News. Supplied/Kaikoura Star. Orca rescue in Kaikoura. L-R Dave Walford, Ian Croucher and Ian Surgenor. Story: Ljana

“A juvenile orca that got tangled in cray pot ropes was “on its last legs” before being rescued off the coast of Kaikoura yesterday…”When we got there the whole pod was nursing it [the baby] along. They were cradling it, it was really amazing they were holding it up.
…As the rescuers arrived the whole pod disappeared, including the baby, he said…”It was pretty distressed, it was hanging upside down when we found it.”
As the baby orca came to the surface the rest of the pod lined up. “The whole pod was in a line observing and they were very calm. “They sort of seemed to know,” he said. As they lifted the baby orca towards the surface there was a lack of resistance, Mr Walford said.
“It was on its last legs, it would have definitely drowned but the pod seemed to have been bringing it to the surface,” he said.”

Back in 2005, a handful of courageous divers freed a humpback whale that had become entangled in crab pot lines in an area known to be great white shark habitat, and those divers were rewarded with individual acknowledgments from whale before she disappeared into the depths. Whether or not the whale was expressing gratitude, the divers all agreed that they had experienced something momentous in the contact, and talked about how unforgettable it was to look into the eyes of the whale.
Although stories of entanglement are all too frequent, our efforts to help seem to be understood by the whales and dolphins, and hopefully make up in some small way for all that they have suffered at human hands.

Associate Trainer Job Openings At SeaWorld: Be Prepared to Crawl

To be considered for a job training the animals at SeaWorld you basically need to be 18, fit, able to swim and scuba dive,  have finished high school, and be confident enough to speak to groups.  You must also be able to “ regularly use hands and fingers, reach with hands and arms, handle, feel, stoop, crawl or kneel”.  No experience or training is required. It is no wonder that people and animals suffer by being put together in that kind of work environment.

What you might get to do as an associate trainer.

Required Skills, Knowledge, Education and Training to be an associate trainer at Seaworld:
•Must be at least 18 years of age.
•Must have a High School Diploma.
•Must be CPR and SCUBA certified.
•Must be able to pass a swim test.
•Must have strong written/verbal communication skills; ability to speak effectively before groups.
•Must have the ability to read, analyze and interpret technical journals, periodicals and governmental procedures.
•Must have the ability to compute rates, ratios, percentages, and to create and interpret graphs.
•Must be able to frequently lift and/or move 50 pounds, occasionally lift and/or move up to 100 pounds.
•Must be able to stand for prolonged periods of time.
Must be able to regularly use hands and fingers, reach with hands and arms, handle, feel, stoop, crawl or kneel.
•Must be able to work indoors and in outside weather conditions (i.e., sunny, wet and/or humid conditions).
•Must be able to positively interact with park guests and co-workers of all ages, different ethnic/cultural backgrounds and/or languages, and individuals with special needs.
•Resume Required
•Bachelors Degree in psychology, biological or zoological sciences preferred.
•Six months of professional animal training experience in a professional setting preferred.
Basic Job Functions
•Enthusiastically represents SeaWorld by displaying a positive attitude, high level of energy and commitment to quality throughout all aspects of the job.
•Provides for proper nutrition, appropriate and sanitary living conditions, and constant care for marine mammals.
•Performs in both education and general public shows.
•Develops an awareness of training principles in order to implement and maintain proper husbandry and show skills.
•Responsible for safe interactions with animals both in and out of the water.

Recently Seaworld eliminated the bonus salary for trainers who work in the water, and many believe that this is because by giving the extra money, Seaworld acknowledged that the corporation considered it dangerous to get in the water with their animals.  Seaworld faces significant fines and lawsuits tied to the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau and are in financial straits in general, so arguably they want to cut costs as well as dodge responsibility.

The fantasy job.

The reality.

The upshot of Seaworld’s hiring practices is that they hire untrained people to do a dangerous job for low pay.  In the past it was considered to be a glamorous job and the amusement parks could get away with this, and in the present economy they may continue to find people willing to take the risk for the $14.67/hr that they pay.
But if Seaworld needs something to take to the bank it is this:  with this recipe for disaster it is only a matter of time before more people and animals are hurt.

“Lolita” the Whale Was Named For Sorrow

Wild-caught Southern Resident Orca Lolita’s life at the Miami Seaquarium[/caption]

A vet once advised me to be cautious in naming horses, and to choose anything except what I didn’t want the horse to be – names like “buck”, “striker”, or “renegade” for instance.  He pointed out that if a horse was named for a bad habit, then you are reminded of that every time you say the name;  not a good idea if your horse has a tendency to buck you off to name him “buck”.

When it comes to whales, amusement parks either get one name and stick with it, replacing dead whales with new ones and keeping the name (aka “Shamu” at SeaWorld) or in the case of the Miami Seaquarium choosing a sleazy and inappropriate moniker such as “Lolita”.

Back when “Lolita” the captive orca was torn from her family in a violent and brutal capture, she was initially named “Tokitae”, a Native American Coast Salish greeting meaning “Nice day, pretty colors”…nice day?  For whom?

Yet as ironic a choice as that was at least it had a positive spin, and maybe “Lolita’s” life would have turned out differently had people everywhere been wishing her a nice day when they said her name.  Like wishing a prisoner a ‘nice day’, the next thing you think about is “like that is going to happen”.

The name “Lolita” means “little sorrowful one”

But instead the amusement park that owns her decided to change her name to the sexy and precocious “Lolita”, in honor of a story character.  A story character, who by the way, represents the tawdry way young girls are victimized in this world, a world where a child’s innocence is short enough, and too often violated.

When “Lolita” was taken from her family she was still a child in human terms; orcas grow and develop in a way that is remarkably parallel to our own, so at four years old, she was basically emotionally and physically the same as our own children at that age.

The final irony is that “Lolita” means “little sorrowful one”.  How appropriate.


LOLITA Gender: Feminine Usage: Spanish , Diminutive of LOLA
LOLA  Gender: FeminineUsage: Spanish, English, Diminutive of DOLORES
DOLORES Gender: Feminine Usage: Spanish, English,
Means “sorrows”, taken from the Spanish title of the Virgin Mary María de los Dolores, meaning “Mary of Sorrows”. It has been used in the English-speaking world since the 19th century, becoming especially popular in America during the 1920s and 30s.