She’s still calling out to her family
Forty years ago, when she was 3 years old, Lolita was captured from her family and taken to the Miami Seaquarium, where she’s been held ever since.
Every day – day after week after month after year – she still calls out to her family, thousands of miles away … the same calls that her brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and all the family use to keep in touch with each other as they dive together in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.
This family of orcas (“killer whales”) is smaller than it once was – several of Lolita’s brothers, sisters and cousins have also been captured and distributed to amusement parks around the country. For the first 10 years of her captivity, one of them lived with Lolita at the seaquarium. (We know they were from the same family since they used the same dialect to communicate.) Then the other orca died, and Lolita has been alone ever since, with only an inflatable plastic orca toy to keep her company.
Still, every day, she performs for the audiences who come to the seaquarium, bringing their children to get “an up-close experience of animals in the wild.”
Lolita, who was first known as Tokitae, meaning “Beautiful lady of shining waters” in the local Chinook language, is the oldest orca in captivity. But that doesn’t mean she’s too old to be set free and returned to her family. Howard Garrett, founder of the Orca Network, has been campaigning for her release since 1995.
“There’s a nice little bay,” he explains, describing a cove that was once netted off for two orcas who had been ordered returned to the wild. “Lolita could be returned there, too, and a care station could be set up, with food, veterinary care, attention and companionship. Her family would typically be coming by any time from late April into October, and they would inevitably hear each other and then we would see.”
Garrett is aware of all the possible contingencies, and his plan takes them into consideration.
“Lolita and her family would have the opportunity to come together and rejoin them and swim away with them. Or there could be a permanent care station available to her at all times so she can come back and be taken care of if that’s what she chooses. It wouldn’t be forced upon her, but I do believe she would ultimately rejoin her family.”
Read our interview with Howard Garrett about how we can learn from dolphins in the wild. Garrett talks not only about his plan to return Lolita to her family, but also how we can learn far more from working with dolphins in the wild than we ever can from studying them in captivity.
Part Three: A New Beginning
A New Beginning for Dolphins
The end of captivity and a better relationship.
Could the oldest captive orca be the first to be released?
Could Tilikum Also Be Set Free?
Yes, if we could find his family.
Making the Case
A lawsuit that could classify dolphins as “persons.”
Is SeaWorld on the Ropes?
2010: Not a good year for the dolphin business.
In the World Spotlight
From The Cove to Blood Dolphins.
SeaWorld Testifies before Congress
Must prove their shows are educational.
Gathering in Helsinki to draft a Declaration of Rights.
How You Can Help
Don’t buy a ticket! Other good things.
Interviews & Reports
The Case for Dolphin Rights
Attorney Steven Wise prepares his landmark case.
How We Could Free Lolita
Orca expert Howard Garrett on returning her to the wild.
When the Watchdog is Just a Guard Dog
The trade association that looks after its own.
Communion in the Wild
Toni Frohoff discusses true communication with dolphins and whales.
The Big Business of Dolphins
Continuing news about people working together to bring an end to the captivity of dolphins.
Posted October 26, 2010, by MichaelMountain