Captivating, but still captive - Lolita - photo courtesy of Shelby Proie (savelolita.com)
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated" - Mahatma Gandhi
A Sad Situation
The Miami Seaquarium has kept a prisoner in a watery cell for nearly 40 years, longer than Nelson Mandela's infamous stay on Robben Island. Her name is Lolita.
Her crime: profitability.
Lolita's capture - photo courtesy of Shelby Proie (savelolita.com)
In 1970, a team of individuals using planes, speedboats and explosives terrorized and captured the Southern Resident orca community in Puget Sound for display in marine parks. Ripped from her family and her natural environment, Lolita, originally named Tokitae, was taken to Miami, FL where she continues to languish nearly four decades later as an entertainment slave. This beautiful orca, forced to perfom one to two shows daily, spends the other twenty-three hours each day in a cramped, rusty tank that is illegal according to the Animal Welfare Act and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) standards for size requirements. Lolita is approximately 22 feet long and 6,000 pounds. Her tank is 20 feet deep at the deepest point and 35 feet across. It is, in essence, little more than a bathtub. Lolita is allowed only one toy, as she has a history of swallowing them out of boredom. She has also been known to chew the cement off the corners of her tank, most likely in a display of the stereotypical behavior exhibited by animals and mammals held captive in psychologically stressful conditions.
Lolita in her rusty tank - photo courtesy of Shelby Proie (savelolita.com)
According to savelolita.com, a website designed to raise awareness about Lolita's plight and to work for her release, "The Miami Seaquarium is often considered to be one of the most dilapidated marine parks in the world. It is in need of substantial repairs, and per the Marine Mammal Inventory Report, has a substantial death rate for their marine mammals." Shelby Proie, an activist who has worked tirelessly to win Lolita's freedom by organizing demonstrations (see below), interviewing on CNN and petitioning various animal welfare organizations, states, "They are also trying to breed the pacific white sided dolphins [with whom Lolita shares her tiny enclosure] so within a year they will have 6 (if all the births happen). It seems they are trying to phase Lolita out so they don't have an empty tank."
Leaks, rust and electrical hazards - Miami Seaquarium - photos courtesy of Shelby Proie (savelolita.com)
On their website, the Orca Network clearly states its goals for their Lolita Come Home Project:
"The primary goal of the Lolita Come Home Project is to move Lolita from her present location at Miami Seaquarium to a rehabilitation/retirement facility in an ocean water seapen in Washington State, where she can retire from show business while still receiving the care of humans for her health and safety.
A secondary goal is to reacclimatize Lolita to her native habitat with open water "walks", so she can return to a healthy physical condition and metabolic strength, similar to that of her free-ranging family members.
A third goal of this project is to facilitate Lolita's reintroduction to her family pod members. This will be done acoustically first, visually second, and socially last. It will be up to Lolita to decide whether she wishes to remain in the social company of her family or return to human care."
How YOU Can Help
Ms. Proie, in conjunction with the Orca Network, holds demonstrations outside the Miami Seaquarium at 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne, FL 33149 the last Saturday of each month. There will be a demonstration this Saturday, May 30, from 12 noon until 2pm. Details and contact information can be found here and there is no limit to the number of people who can attend.
Demo - photo courtesy of Shelby Proie (savelolita.com)
Please visit the websites linked above so you can learn ways to help Lolita find freedom.
Lolita on the day of her capture - photo courtesy of Shelby Proie (savelolita.com)