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Lolita Update #131 - Legal progress is underway; Blackfish comes to Seattle; please vote in the Celebrity Challenge.

 

News, Views, EventsMay 3, 2013
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Lolita still looks healthy and fit for travel back to her native waters.
Lolita's excellent attorneys have cleared another legal hurdle on her long road home.

The wheels of justice grind slowly, but  progress is underway. In essence, the National Marine Fisheries Service has now officially agreed to consider whether Lolita should be included with her family, the Southern Resident orca community, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. There will be a comment period while they decide if they should include her, then if they decide to do so, there will be another comment period.

For the official word on the decision, here is the Federal Register Notice.

The comment period is now open; instructions for commenting are given in the Federal Register Notice above.

 

Here is the joint news release sent out by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, who have partnered their legal offices very effectively to help Lolita, bringing together a highly qualified team of legal experts help make Lolita's retirement in her home waters a reality. Orca Network is a petitioner in this effort, and we can't emphasize enough how thrilling it is to see this level of professional dedication helping Lolita.  

 

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For Immediate Release: 

Contact:

David Perle 202-483-7382, ext. 2194; DavidP@peta.org (PETA)

Lisa Franzetta 707-795-2533, ext. 1015; lfranzetta@aldf.org (ALDF)

 

FEDS GRANT APPROVAL FOR LEGAL EFFORTS TO FREE LOLITA TO PROCEED

Agency Must Now Decide Whether to Offer Captive Orca the Same Protection Afforded Her Wild Kin

 

Miami - The National Marine Fisheries Service has found that PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), and the Orca Network have presented "substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that" their petition to have the solitary orca Lolita included in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing of the Southern Resident orcas, the family she was taken from more than 40 years ago, "may be warranted." The agency will now have nine months to determine whether Lolita's unlawful and unexplained exclusion from her family's listing should be reversed. The cruel exclusion has allowed the Miami Seaquarium to hold Lolita in the smallest orca tank in North America without the constraints of the ESA, which prohibits such harm and harassment.

 

"There is simply no lawful justification for excluding Lolita from the Endangered Species Act's protection," says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. "The National Marine Fisheries Service's decision is an important step toward ensuring that Lolita will finally receive the same protection offered to her family members, who are waiting for her in the ocean."

 

"Lolita has swum circles in a tiny, barren tank for over 40 years," says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. "It is time for the government to grant her the protection she has been denied for many lonely decades."

 

PETA, ALDF, and the Orca Network want Lolita to be released into a seaside sanctuary that is waiting for her in her home waters and, if possible, back into her family pod. In the wild, Southern Resident orcas often spend their entire lives with their mothers. Lolita recognized her pod's calls decades after being captured, and her mother is still thriving at more than 80 years of age.

 

For more information, please visit PETA.org and ALDF.org.

 

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April 28, 2013 (San Juan Journal)
The "Free Lolita" movement has gained a foothold.
Eighteen years after Howard Garrett, Ken Balcomb, and then-Governor Mike Lowry [note: should also include Sec. of State Ralph Munro] initiated the movement to return L-pod member Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium to her native Northwest waters, the National Marine Fisheries Service accepted a petition to consider whether Lolita should be included as part of the Endangered Species Act listing of Southern Resident killer whales, now numbered at 84 - plus Lolita.
Jared Goodman, an attorney with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which spearheaded the ESA petition, said that Lolita's continued captivity is illegal, as well as inhumane.
Howard Garrett, chairman of Orca Network, says the upcoming review by NMFS may be the best chance that Lolita has to return to her home waters. Garrett said Orca Network and Ken Balcomb's Center for Whale Research have prepared an extensive plan for rehabilitating Lolita in Kanaka Bay, on the west side of San Juan Island, and possibly returning her to her pod - though he adds that other supporters are prepared to care for Lolita "indefinitely" if necessary.
A division of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, NMFS must complete its review by January of 2014, after publishing a proposed rule, expected next week, for conducting its review and accepting comments and other information from interested parties on both sides of the issue.
That still won't end the controversy. The Fisheries Service explained on its website: "By January 25, 2014, we'll make a determination on whether the petitioned action is warranted. If we propose to include Lolita in the Southern Resident killer whale distinct population segment, that action would be subject to public comment."

April 27, 2013 (Victoria Times Colonist)
A small victory has been scored by animal rights organizations fighting to free Lolita, a member of the endangered southern resident killer whales.
The U.S. federal government has accepted a petition from groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, asking that Lolita be included in the U.S endangered species listing.
Howard Garrett of Orca Network said acceptance of the petition is a step in the right direction.
"But it's only one hurdle and there are so many still on the track ahead of us," he said.
It seems logical that, if Lolita is eventually included in the listing, she would be freed, Garrett said.
"They can't hold a member of an endangered species captive for business reasons," he said.
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Meanwhile, yet another legal effort is underway to help bring Lolita home.
As the ESA case above winds its way through the courts, yet another case is also pending to challenge the annual permit granted by the USDA to the Seaquarium to continue to display Lolita at the whale stadium despite multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act (the size, the lack of protection from the sun, and her lack of companionship).

Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to help Orca Network continue this work for Lolita HERE. Thank you!
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Blackfish is coming to Seattle. 

 Tickets are available from the Seattle International Film Festival at the above link.


Much like the book Death at Seaworld revealed the contrast between how orcas naturally live in complex societies and vast natural habitats versus cramped concrete tanks, this film delves into the emotional lives of these apex mammals, both as free-ranging pod members and as captives doing tricks for an industry they never chose to be part of. 

 

One person who viewed the film writes: "Animals exist here with us, but they are not here for us.  There is a difference.  Watching a grizzled old seadog talk about capturing wild orcas and listening to him speak about how the adults wouldn't leave even after their young had been loaded onto a boat and taken away - seeing that man moved to tears at the memory of realizing what he'd done...that ruined me.  Listening to captive female orcas scream in grief and agony when their babies had been taken from them - watching them sit still in their tank and cry out for their young ones who they'd never see again...that devastated me.  I've never heard anything like it, and I never want to again.  But I will.  We all will.  Until we make it stop."    

 

So far seen only at festivals, this film is sending waves of compassion directly into the orca display industry. From interviews with experts and former SeaWorld trainers plus wild orca footage in the San Juan islands, to scenes from Victoria and the infamous captures on Whidbey Island, to Tilikum in Orlando, and an orca tank in the Canary Islands off Spain, Blackfish covers the history, the legal wrangling, and the current dilemmas before us as we contemplate how to bring an end to this tragic business. The films searches for answers to the question: why has Tilikum killed three people? You'll feel the whales' emotions in the nets and tanks that become their boundaries as circus performers. Blackfish is stunning, engaging and deeply moving, a whole new way of looking at captive orcas.

 

Schedule:
May 28, 2013, 7:00 PM
June 1, 2013, 11:00 AM

at AMC Pacific Place, 600 Pine St. in Seattle, just 2 blocks west of I-5.


Orca Network's Lolita campaign has been nominated to compete for major funding in the BiLLe Celebrity Challenge.

It's a voting contest open to everyone to choose their highest rated cause, represented by a particular celebrity. For Lolita, Robin Williams has been selected as her representative. Such a dynamic duo: Lolita and Robin Williams!

It's very safe and easy to vote, just click on the BiLLe Celebrity Challenge and enter your email address. You'll receive a verification email so you can vote immediately and once every day for the rest of the contest. As of today there are 26 days left in the contest. We're in 2nd place and gaining rapidly.

If we win, the sponsors, who conduct a lottery in Europe, will donate 25,000 Euros to the Lolita campaign, that's over $32,000, which would set up a contingency fund for Lolita, for instance to help publicize her proposed retirement, or to hire professionals or travel to make arrangements if and when the legal efforts in support of her retirement plan (see below) manage to get her free of the tiny tank she's been confined in for almost 43 years.
    
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The new Lolita bumper sticker - available HERE.

Lolita's Retirement Plan

 

The proposed bay pen for Lolita/Toki would be in Kanaka Bay on the west side of San Juan Island. Permission was once granted from the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island, transport would need to be arranged, professional care staff would be contracted, security, accommodations, fish supplies and a freezer, etc. would be managed. 

 

It's time to get her out of there and back home where she can live out her life in her native marine waters, with round the clock care and attention and the opportunity to vocalize with her family. Eventually, when she rebuilds her metabolic strength and stamina, she could swim out to visit with her family, and if the bonds of trust that unite her pod and matriline can be regained, she would have the freedom to swim away with them, or to return to the care station in the bay to stay with her human friends. The move would be perfectly safe and would leave the choice of how to live her life up to her.

 

The full retirement proposal is available here.   

Quick Links


In This Issue
Lolita's bio:
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Photo: Corrine Regan

 

Lolita was first named Tokitae when she was captured from her family in 1970. She has been on display at the Miami Seaquarium in Florida ever since. She is the last surviving orca of about 45 members of the Southern Resident community that were brutally captured and delivered for display in marine parks between 1965 and 1973.

 

She was about four years old when she last saw her family. She still lives in a tank that is that is only 35x80 feet, illegal according to the Animal Welfare Act. Lolita is about 7,500 pounds, 21 feet long and her tank is 18-20 feet deep.

 

Lolita performs twice a day but at other times she shows signs of boredom and depression. Her tank mate, Hugo, killed himself in 1980 by hitting his head against the wall, Lolita hasn't seen another whale since!

 

A professional proposal has been designed to retire Lolita safely, with expert care in a protected cove near her family's usual summer foraging areas, where she was born and raised.  

 

The full proposal for Lolita's retirement can be found HERE. There is no significant risk at any stage of this retirement proposal, but there is extreme risk in her remaining at the marine park in Miami.