Lolita Update #137
Progress Update and Commemoration Event
August 4, 2014

Lolita Progress Update

Photo by Anne-Marie Van Dijk

Many dedicated efforts are underway and gaining strength daily to acheive the goal of returning Lolita to her home and family. These struggles are going on behind closed doors in the courts, at NOAA, in full public view at the front entrance to the Seaquarium, and in the determined hearts and minds of a vast populace of Lolita supporters working hard to help this long-suffering orca. Below are a recent overhead video of Lolita between shows, and two vintage video documentaries telling her story.

A bird's eye video of Lolita from August 2, 2014 under the midday Miami sun: Overhead view of Lolita alone.

The 1996 KOMO TV documentary with some incredible interviews, narrated by the late beloved Kathi Goertzen: Lolita - Spirit in the Water.

The informative and insightful documetary by Rattle The Cage Productions: Lolita - Slave to Entertainment

Some background: In the summer of 2011 a legal team began planning actions to help Lolita return to her native waters. Mostly from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the team arrived at a multi-pronged approach.

First, they focused on the fact the Seaquarium whale tank violates multiple provisions of the Animal Welfare Act, administered by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) under the USDA. The Seaquarium receives an annual license to operate despite these violations, so the team submitted declarations describing for the court precisely how the regulations were violated, and assembled expert opinion to establish that the violations were likely causing Lolita to suffer. In early 2013 the license was re-issued as expected so in short order we sued the USDA for issuing the license to an unlawful facility. The case was dismissed on March 21, 2014 on the procedural grounds that the inspectors have the discretion to ignore the regulations written by Congress. On July 1, 2014 we appealed the dismissal to an appelate court, which hopefully will examine the violations and not just the right of the inspectors to ignore them. In a few months a date for that decision will be announced, but it is likely to be decided by early next year.

At the same time another case has been in the works, this one a petition to NOAA Fisheries to include Lolita as a member of the Southern Resident community. She was expressly excluded when the ESA determination for the Southern Residents was written in 2005. NOAA has now agreed to consider including Lolita as a member of an endangered population, and on January 24, 2014 NOAA proposed a rule to grant Lolita endangered status with her family. The comment period drew 19,190 comments, with the final determination expected in late January 2015.

Each of these efforts required vast pages of supportive literature, providing the courts a thorough education on the cultural, cognitive and emotional capacities of orcas, and the stresses seen in captive orcas.

In February 2012 PETA attorneys brought forth a case against SeaWorld based on the 13th Amendment, suing the corporation for enslaving five orcas held by SeaWorld, and once again establishing a prodigious body of legal literature on the highly developed natural history of orcas. The case was dismissed after informing much of the public that capture and forced servitude of orcas is much like slavery in humans, again with a considerable body of supportive literature placed into the public record.

Another legal track, conducted by ALDF, was to sue OSHA for not enforcing the same abatement requirements on the Seaquarium that are being imposed on SeaWorld, namely that trainers shouldn't get into the water with Lolita. OSHA agreed in late July, and fined the Seaquarium $7,000 while they were at it. The suit was written so that it applies only to showtimes, so that "husbandry" can be performed outside the shows, which may be important for Lolita's mental health simply for the companionship.

On July 2, 2014, the Seaquarium was bought by Palace Entertainment, owned by Parques Reunidos, which owns over 70 theme parks including Marineland, Antibes in France. We have written to Palace Entertainment to suggest that their actions toward Lolita will be very important to a great many people, and their image could suffer or could soar depending on whether they hinder or help her return home. On May 30 Orca Network wrote a letter to Fernando Eiroa, President and CEO of Palace Entertainment, asking him to consider Lolita's health and welfare, and the image of Palace Entertainment, in their decisions about Lolita's retirement.

Below are some letters and petitions you can personalize with your message and send to Palace Entertainment to encourage them to provide assistance to Lolita's retirement:

PETA: Urge Palace Entertainment to Free Lolita!
Born Free USA: Ask Palace Entertainment to Free Lolita!
The Origami Whales Project: Please TAKE ACTION on Orca Lolita.
Care2: Ask Palace Entertainment to Free Lolita!
Alexandrea Welch at Release Lolita to Washington State.

Photo by Chris Lagergren

In harmony with these legal actions, for several years now and with ever increasing frequency and determination, demonstrations and informational protests have graced the entrance to the Seaquarium. A wide array of homemade and heartfelt signs, postcards and flyers are read by the occupants of almost every car that goes in the parking lot, resulting in a many people seeing Lolita in a whole new way.

All of these factors are energizing each other in this post-Blackfish era of public rejection of captivity for cetaceans. The legal efforts are likely to be at least partially resolved by early in 2015, and the signs are pointing to a possible breakthrough for Lolita early next year.

Penn Cove Orca Capture Anniversary Commemoration August 8th

Photo by Sandy Dubpernell

Coupeville, Whidbey Island, WA - August 2014 marks the 44th anniversary of Lolita's capture from her family, the Southern Resident orcas, in Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, WA.

In memory of the nearly 40 Southern Resident orcas captured in Washington State, and the 13 orcas killed during the captures, and in honor of Lolita, or Tokitae, the sole survivor, Orca Network is sponsoring several events to commemorate the anniversary of the 1970 Penn Cove Orca Capture on Friday, August 8th.

Thanks to Captain John Stone, we are offering a sail on Penn Cove aboard his beautiful Cutty Sark ketch from noon - 1:30 pm, departing from the Captain Whidbey Inn near Coupeville. The sail will include a wreath ceremony at the orca capture site, talks about the captures from Captain Stone who has many stories, and from Howard Garrett of Orca Network. Tickets for the Cutty Sark sail are $50/person - very limited space is available for this event, though you are welcome to join us on the water in your own boat or kayak.

4 to 4:45 pm - we will gather on board the MV Tokitae Ferry as walk-on passengers to learn more about the 1970s orca captures and Lolita. Whidbey Islanders will walk on to the 4 pm Tokitae sailing from the Clinton ferry terminal, and those from the mainland can board the 4:30 Tokitae sailing from Mukilteo for the ride back to Whidbey.

5 - 7:30 pm - we will meet at the Clinton Community Hall for food, drink, and presentations including author Sandra Pollard of Freeland who will read from her new book, "Puget Sound Whales for Sale," and Howard Garrett of Orca Network to give us an update on efforts to bring Lolita home to her family in Washington state. Displays, music, and more will be offered during this event; admission is $25.

Contact Orca Network at [email protected] or call 360.331.3543 to reserve space on the Cutty Sark sail or to RSVP for the evening event, and check for more information and updates for these events.


Much is going on to help bring Lolita home and to inform and advocate for her and her family Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to help Orca Network continue this work by clicking HERE. Thank you!

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