CAPTIVE ORCA LOLITA
Release and Retirement Plan
The captive orca Lolita is subject to a rule proposal that would grant her equal status with her family in the wild. Before her capture over 44 years ago, Lolita was a member of the "L" pod of Southern Resident orcas. In a violent roundup, she was one of seven young whales captured in 1970 in Puget Sound, Washington. By 1987, all 45 orcas taken from their famillies in this notorious capture had died, except for Lolita.
Sold to Miami Seaquarium after capture, she lives in an illegally-sized tank that is too small for a large animal like Lolita. Numerous efforts to correct her illegal living conditions by various animal-rights groups have not been successful. To get a glimpse into Lolita's life, see video of Lolita with an interview by Dr. Ingrid Visser.
Originally she shared her tank with an orca named Hugo. Even though they mated several times, Lolita never gave birth to a calf. Hugo committed suicide when he rammed his head into the side of the tank and died from an aneurysm. Since Hugo's death on March 4, 1980, Lolita has lived in the so-called Whale Bowl with a pair of Pacific white-sided dolphins.
The Southern Resident orcas consist of three distinct pods (J, K and L) that live and travel in Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca off the State of Washington. In 2005, they were listed as endangered. At present only 84 of these orcas remain in the wild. According to the Orca Network, Lolita still calls out in the unique language used by her family members. Each orca pod has its own dialect. View this moving Public Service Announcement.
©Maris Sidenstecker I
Juan de Fuca Strait
With the NOAA rule proposal announcement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has accepted a petition from animal-rights groups to extend Endangered Species Act protection to Lolita. USFWS recently concluded that captive animals cannot be assigned a different legal status from their wild counterparts.
Howard Garrett, co-founder and president of the Orca Network, said that it is only one of several hurdles that Lolita will face to gain her freedom. He believes that if she is successfully listed, it is likely that she will be freed. USFWS spokesman, Brian Gorman, said it's possible she may not be freed, but she could obtain improvements in her living conditions.
You can read about Lolita's retirement plan to San Juan Island at sea pen proposal.
New Species of Humpback Dolphin
Another species of humpback dolphin was found in the fall of 2013 off Australia. This has led scientists to believe that rather than two species of humpback dolphins, there are four. Scientists have debated for years about the number of species of humpback dolphin within the group's genus, Sousa.
The species has not yet been named but it has been identified through a decade-long scientific collaboration. Physical and genetic samples were collected from throughout their range. Samples from West Africa, the Pacific Ocean and off the coast of Australia were examined. Only two species were recognized: The Atlantic humpback dolphin and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin. To determine additional species, DNA was looked at as well as physical characteristics including the length of dolphins' beaks and number and position of their teeth. The findings suggested four specimens of humpback dolphin, not two. Researchers had previously proposed three species: one off of West Africa (S.teuszii), one in the central and west Indian Ocean (S. plumbea), and one in the eastern Indian and west Pacific Oceans (S. chinensis). The as-yet unnamed fourth species off the coast of Australia was a surprise. The dolphins were known but it was not realized they were a different species.
Survival of the new species is questionable as it is unknown how many of these dolphins exist off Australia. They may already be at highly vulnerable or even endangered levels. Their main threats are habitat degradation due to coastal development, mining and resource exploitation, and the shipping associated with mining developments.
Last month's Eletter described a newly discovered dolphin species in the Amazon River of Brazil given the scientific name Inia araguaiaensis after the Araguaia River Basin where scientists discovered it.
Children Take Action Against Captivity
Photograph © Ladeen Sklair
Children can use their creativity to spread the word about captive orcas. Go to our website to find out how you can take action! Make signs, a video, or artwork and take action
for captive orcas.
Email your photo to us with the name of your school or club and the city, state and grade level of your school. We will post selected entries on our website or Facebook.
The movie Blackfish has exposed the deprivation and boredom suffered by captive orcas and other dolphins. They need our help and support.
One class made a statement about a planned school trip to SeaWorld. After viewing Blackfish, students at Point Dume School, Malibu, California, made a statement by managing to get a planned field trip to SeaWorld cancelled. Their story is on our Facebook page.
Seeing a captive animal performing tricks does not educate people about the lives of orcas in the wild. Link to this site for more information on captivity.
Save The Vaquita Day - July 12, 2014
This important date is to help with efforts to save the vaquita, the most endangered porpoise in the world. In our March Eletter, we will report on some of the things that are happening to help vaquita.