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Liberating Lolita

November 18, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

In what promises to be the largest protest in history for a captive orca, the Miracle March for Lolita will take place at the Miami Seaquarium on January 17th, 2015. Lolita, who was stolen from her pod off the coast of Washington in 1970 when she was four, has been living in the smallest orca tank in the world for 44 years.

Miami Seaquarium

Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium

For the first 10 years, Lolita had a killer whale companion, Hugo, who reportedly died by pounding his head against the side of the tank. Since 1980, she has been alone, unable to interact with members of her own species or engage in any natural behaviors. Lolita can’t even dive because the the tank to which she is confined is shallower than the length of her body.

One of the Miracle March for Lolita organizers, Robin Jewell, says that over 1,500 people have signed up to participate on Facebook alone and that a film will be made to document the event. The goal, she says, is to shine a national spotlight on Lolita’s plight in an effort to liberate and return her to her pod. Lolita’s mother is still alive, and, even after 44 years, Lolita continues to vocalize in the calls used only by her family, which should help her reintegrate into her pod.

Seattle on Worldwide Day of Protests for Lolita

Seattle on Worldwide Day of Protests for Lolita

In addition to the grass roots movement to free Lolita, advocacy groups are using legal strategies to liberate her. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA and the Orca Network have petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to send her home on the grounds that her pod is protected as an endangered species. To date, Lolita has been denied the same protection as her family. The groups have also sued the USDA because Lolita is kept in a tank that is smaller than the minimum size required by the Animal Welfare Act and has no orca companion or shelter from the sun.

Lolita at Miami Seaquarium

Lolita at Miami Seaquarium

If and when Lolita is liberated, she will be transported by plane to a coastal sanctuary near her pod where she will be rehabilitated and, if possible, transitioned back into the wild. The Orca Conservancy and Orca Network have  published detailed plans for Lolita’s release.

Your Turn

The Miracle March for Lolita is an expensive endeavor, as the City of Miami is charging organizers for police officers, fireman, lane closures and other services. Please donate to help make this march a success.

In addition, please urge Miami Seaquarium owner Palace Entertainment to liberate Lolita so that the advocacy groups can take her home: PETA petition, Petition Site, petition, Born Free petition

Attend the Miracle March for Lolita and/or tell your friends about it.

Comments via Facebook Comments

  1. elena sachs says:

    PLEASE let LOLITA go BACK to her FAMILY and live out thREST of her life in PEACE and HARMONY and JOY

  2. Kirsty Sharpe says:

    I understand all sides of the story but I cant help feeling that it is worth taking those risks to let Lolita be with her family again. If the right people are on board this could be done successfully. the aquarium should be the ones footing the bill… is their actions in the first place that make them responsible for the barbaric treatment of an endangered animal.

    I would sooner have 2 days of happiness and die than 40 years of torture!

  3. Carol says:

    What a horrible conundrum..whilst those wanting to free Lolita have their hearts in the right place…reintegration would prove catastrophic for her. Neither keeping her in that bathrub nor traumatizing her to death by release are acceptable solutions. Please everyone should unite to solve the dilemma for the best possible outcome for the incredible creature. I commend you all but ponder it further please.

    1. Stace says:

      Robin, you are passionate. I have experience with wild dolphins, one captive dolphin and several beaching’s while living in Florida years ago. Friend- this very sad case is something very painful to understand- she is in extreme duress, Maybe she could be transferred to another tank but at this time she cannot be transferred across the country. She is not stable enough. Are you in fact in consultation with any marine biologist? Experts? You refer to Keiko, research shows Keiko not only would have starved to death but after a life time in tropics- sending him to cold water gave him a respiratory illness that killed him. A cold. He had no defenses. The idea of reuniting is beautiful, but would probably kill her. Your attention and public pressure is a beautiful thing- get informed why they cannot improve her tank- or at least shade? Please. Thank you for your love of animals.

      1. Terri says:

        Before making an uniformed comment as you have, please read the release plan that is in place for Tokitae. It is a solid plan and we would never set her up for failure. Some of the top Marine Biologist have set the retirement plan up.
        You state she is “not stable” for travel…I’m
        not sure where you came up with this statement. Tokitae is a perfect candidate for rehabilitation and release… She deserves to live free in her home waters with her family. We owe it to her!
        By the way- Keiko’s release was a great success. Please do your research.

  4. Dec. 2014 – What is the status on this?

  5. Lolita is the PERFECT candidate for a gradual release..
    Even it it weren’t..anything is worth giving her a chance over what her life is now.

  6. Robin Jewell Roberts says:

    Lauren and Marsha, that is absolutely not true as been proven by Keiko (free willy) who was reintroduced back to the ocean. Obviously you haven’t checked thoroughly into the research that has been done on Lolita by many marine biologists. She is the perfect candidate, her Mother still alive and accounted for, her endangered pod still alive, she still speaks the language of her family.
    I believe you are the ignorant one Lauren, someone who thinks that a conscious thinking, intelligent being, would not trade that tiny pool enslaved by humans for any time they may have for freedom to hear and see her family once again. It is a fact Orca’s life expectancy in captivity is cut by half if not more. How you could think that there is any education going on by watching a tortured soul that has been brutally stripped from their family and made to do tricks for dead fish is beyond me. I would not want my grandchildren to think that it is. What education are they getting from this? I think it is you that need to do some research and fact checking. I would hate for you to remain blind all your life.

    1. Preston Andrews says:

      There Robin goes again, feeding out the same lies that all activists truly want to believe. The harsh reality is that Keiko’s release was an unmitigated disaster, and now they want to do it to Lolita. Keiko was never successfully integrated into the wild population, and had to be cared for until the end because he was unable to feed himself enough to be a healthy independent animal. He died, and was immediately buried in the permafrost in Norway. No one at HSUS or Free Willy/Keiko Foundation wanted a necropsy or any official record of what actually happened because it would contradict all of the PR spin Naomi Rose was putting on the story.

      Robin is working hard to get Lolita released, but who does she think will pay for this misguided endeavor? Sea pens and cross country transports cost real money. They have a “plan” to do it all, but nowhere in their “plan” does it specify any costs or who might foot the bill. (I keep using “plan” in quotation marks because anyone can write anything down on a piece of paper and call it a “plan,” but that does not give the ideas any validity whatsoever.) It ended up costing over $25 million to kill Keiko slowly. Robin is having a hard time raising $15k for a pep rally.

      Thank you Lauren and Marsha for being critical thinkers and examining the situation without the rose-colored glasses of emotional commitment. This is a bad idea that has done nothing but waste time and distract from the real problem of the Orcas that live in that cesspool they call Puget Sound.

      Time, effort, political capital and resources should be spent trying to make the wild a better place to live. We should be getting to the root of why the animals are endangered in the first place instead of trying so hard to throw another animal into that peril.

      1. Terri says:

        Wow! My guess is you are a MIAMI Seaquarium or SeaWorld employee.
        Your facts about Keiko & the statement that it was a disaster is “propaganda”.
        Haters will hate…. We can’t stop you… But, we will get Tokitae back to her home & get family!

  7. Lauren Laura says:

    Clearly no scientist, biologist, or veterinarian has been consulted on this endeavor. Those in charge are misleading the public into supporting the death of Lolita. While it is unfortunate that she was taken out of the wild, she has known nothing except her pool for her entire life. The only reason she has not been moved into a bigger pool is because the stress alone would kill her. If this ridiculous plan were to ever play out she would never make it out of the park alive due to trauma of leaving the only place she has ever known. The fact that people are ignorant to this and refuse to believe those who actually understand the proper welfare and care of animals is extremely disheartening. If you want to make an impact on an animal’s life, go volunteer at your local zoo or aquarium, educate yourselves and others on the impact that these places have on public education and animal/environmental conservation.

    1. Marsha Stone says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful, common sense comments. To transfer Lolita now would kill her. There is no scientific evidence nor any successful examples of an orca surviving release after a lifetime. Keiko was a stressed out mess when he died. Don’t put Lolita through that same process and doom her to death.

  8. patty taylor says:

    Being held captive for 44 years is a horrible shame! Let Lolita go home!!

  9. Elinor Hawke-Szady says:

    Imagine one of us – humans – being taken away at 4 years’ of age from our families and forced to live in a closet for that many years… It’s INSANE what we do to other species. I hope this March in January of next year has a positive impact and Lolita is FINALLY freed.

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