On August 8, 1970 Lolita (Tokitae) was captured in Penn Cove, Whidbey Island, near Puget Sound, off the coast of Seattle, Washington. Four baby whales and a young mother drowned during this capture. The young mother and four calves had their belly’s slit, filled with rocks, weighted down with chains, and anchors, and then sent to the bottom of the Ocean. This was done so people wouldn’t learn of their demise and the public outrage which would follow through media attention. Today that is banned and illegal.
Forty years after her capture, she is the only remaining living Orca from that capture. She has been completely alone since 1980, when a young male named Hugo died in the tank with her. Lolita remains in the same tank built in the 1960s by the Miami SeaQuarium; now called “The Whale and Dolphin Stadium.” The tank is 35 feet wide and 80 feet across. This tank is illegal under USDA/APHISstandards which require a killer whale enclosure to be at least 48 feet in all directions.
The tank is 20 feet deep at its deepest point, in the center. Along the edges it is 10 feet deep. Keep in mind that Lolita is now 22 feet long and close to 7,000 pounds. She is one of the largest and oldest Orcas in captivity.
Why is she in the smallest tank?
She lives on a strict diet; in order for her to perform they need to keep her hungry. Lolita lives in a stressful environment, even though to your eyes it may not appear to be stressful. Loud music, audiences cheering, trainers whistling and motioning all create high stress and anxiety for her. Whales use echo-location to talk and communicate. It’s nothing less than torture to be confined for life to this space. We as a species need to realize that these animals belong in their natural habitats, the Oceans. Miami SeaQuarium paid just $6,000 dollars for her in 1970, they have made hundreds of millions since.
In 1995, she was allowed to listen to a brief recording of “L-pod” (her family) calls, brought in by NBC Dateline. She responded quickly and seemed very interested, calling back to the recorder. The camera crew was forced to leave Miami SeaQuarium, for obvious reasons. The music is now so loud in her stadium that a similar event is almost impossible to attempt.
It’s time to retire Lolita, and you can help her. Don’t visit Miami Seaquarium. Don’t pay for a ticket. Suggest to your friends not to visit and spread the word. Her mom is still alive and comes near Puget Sound every year. There is a sea pen waiting so she can be near her family. And then, when she’s ready, she will be set free.
The power is yours. Please spread the word. She needs your help.