On January 17th, cetacean rights activists from around the world will descend on the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park near Miami Seaquarium beginning at 8am EST. The crowd is coming together to show Miami Seaquarium how many people are pushing for Lolita’s release from the captive slave park. The event includes vendors selling merchandise which help support the movement globally, key speakers like Howard Garrett, Jane Velez Mitchell, and Dr. Naomi Rose plus a silent march beginning at 10am sharp. The march will walk around the south side of the Rickenbacker Causeway. To get all of the information about the event and the itinerary for the day, visit the event page: Miracle March For Lolita
Who is Lolita and why all of the fuss? Lolita (also named Tokitae) is rumored to be from the L-Pod of the endangered Southern Resident orcas with L-25 Ocean Sun as her mother. Lolita was captured from Penn Cove, Washington on August 8th 1970 along with 80 other orca. The orca were spotted by plane, boats raced in circles, and bombs were even set off. The group split up, trying to get away. One group was initially captured, and the second group came to their location later. 8 of these orca were sold to marine parks around the world. These orca became known as Lil Nooka, Ramu 4, Wally, Clovis, Chappy, Jumbo, Winston (Aka Ramu) and of course, Lolita- the lone survivor to this day. Other orca faced an even worse fate- 5 of the killer whales drowned during the stressful capture. 4 of those 5 were young babies who tried to charge at their mothers on the other side of the gate. Ted Griffin and Don Goldsberry tried to cover this up by filling the babies stomachs with rocks and anchors, sinking them out in the ocean. 3 of the babies washed up on shore, causing an outrage with the citizens. SeaWorld was taken to court and had to agree to never capture orca in Washington state ever again. Witnesses to this capture say the whales were making noises they will never forget- screaming out to one another in distress.
Lolita was purchased by the Miami Seaquarium to be a tank mate for their other orca captured in the same location a few years prior named Hugo. Miami Seaquarium was even nice enough (catch my sarcasm, please) to build a larger tank for the two of them so they would not have to share Hugo’s current vomit-inducing small tank known as the “Celebrity Pool“. This pool is currently used to house manatees. The new pool is appropriately named the “Whale Bowl“. This new tank is only 35x80x20 ft, and deemed illegal according to standards set in the Animal Welfare Act. Lolita was placed in the Whale Bowl as soon as she arrived, but Hugo had to stay isolated from her due to fear that they would fight. The two of them were constantly vocalizing to each other. No one knew at the time that these two orca were most likely from the same pod. Eventually they were put together, performing in numerous shows and even mating a few times (with no successful pregnancies) before Hugo killed himself by bashing his head against the side of his tank one too many times. His body was then taken from the park and placed into the Dade County Dump.
Lolita has shown signs of aggression. Her and Hugo attacked trainer Chip Kirk in the 1970s. Hugo left a scar on his arm, and the two of them ripped up his wetsuit. Hugo also would show aggression towards the trainers during performances. Eventually MSQ did not want to work with him anymore and were training Lolita to be used as his replacement.
Lolita has continued to perform in shows for over 40 years. That means that the Miami Seaquarium has made over $160million USD from her. Don’t you think she deserves to go home? She belongs to the most studied group of orca on the planet, the Southern Residents. Lolita is the only Southern Resident currently in captivity. There is an extremely detailed retirement/release plan set up for her if Miami Seaquarium would ever give her the chance to thrive in the world she belongs in.
The Miami Seaquarium (or Seaprison, your choice) opened it’s doors on September 24th 1955, making this the oldest marine park in the United States. That is no excuse for their poorly thought out idea of an orca tank. Over 500,000 people visit this park annually, lining the pockets of the owners with money every day. This park is so greedy they even applied for a permit to recapture Keiko from the wild to be a mate for Lolita!
When the Miami Seaquarium first opened, they were the largest sea park in the entire world. They gained much popularity when the TV show Flipper & 2 movies were filmed at the Seaquarium. Ric O’Barry was a trainer and stunt double for the franchise. After he watched the star dolphin Kathy die from what he believed to be a suicide, he vowed to become a cetacean rights activist.
The Miami Seaquarium has had more cetacean deaths than I can count, both wild and captive born. Included in that list are sperm whales, a beaked whale, and 7 other pacific white sided dolphins.
Miami Seaquarium has promised on several occasions to build Lolita a new tank, but they have never came through.
Lolita is perhaps the only orca in North America that has a chance at survival outside of her tank. She has performed for us for over 44 years. We must continue to fight for her freedom, her chance to rejoin her family (whos calls she has responded to in the past). Join the movement, Retire Lolita, Free Tokitae!