Free Lolita

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    Arthur Hertz, owner of Miami Seaquarium
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For over five decades the Seaquarium has been perhaps the most popular tourist attraction of South Florida. The facility is now falling into disrepair, however, and public attitudes toward killer whale and dolphin performances are rapidly moving toward disapproval. As a result, attendance and revenues at the Seaquarium have been falling steadily for well over twenty years.

Our intentions and motivations are attested to by virtually the full slate of public officials of Washington State. Washington State elected officials who support the proposal to return Lolita (Tokitae) to her native waters include: Gov. Gary Locke, Sen. Patty Murray, US Rep. Rick Larsen, US Rep. Norm Dicks, US Rep. Jim McDermott, US Rep. Adam Smith, US Rep. Linda Smith, US Sen. Slade Gorton, ret., US Rep. Jack Metcalf, ret., Gov. Mike Lowry, ret., Sec. of State Ralph Munro, ret., State rep. Dave Anderson, ret., State rep. Kelly Barlean, King County Exec Ron Sims, Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, ret., Island County Board of County Commissioners, San Juan County Board of County Commissioners.

Hundreds of organizations support the proposal to return Lolita (Tokitae) to her native waters. As the public turns away from holding whales and dolphins in captivity, the marine park industry is responding by ending the practice. Since 1990, at least 21 North American marine parks formerly featuring whales and dolphins have permanently closed or discontinued holding them.

At the same time new aquariums, with a difference, are opening up all over the country. According to the Rocky Mountain News, October 25, 1998: "The American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) saw aquarium attendance rise from 23 million in 1989 to 36.4 million last year." The new Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium are just two of about two dozen aquarium projects in the United States either under development or recently opened.

None of these two dozen new aquariums plans to hold cetaceans. The trend is away from the circus-like atmosphere of the older marine parks and toward a new era of exciting educational and inspirational exhibitory. According to the Seattle Times (Nov. 15, 1998): "These days, as aquariums de-emphasize dancing-dolphin shows in favor of more sophisticated natural settings, creatures like pipefish and ratfish and octopus gain stature and value."

The Seaquarium could well become a sea life park like no other yet devised. The benefits to Miami of participation in the Lolita's reintroduction to her native waters could be many. First, Miami could become identified in the eyes of the public, worldwide, with a universally applauded goodwill gesture. Beyond that initial public relations bonanza, Lolita's progress, along with spectacular images of the orca community and habitat of her birth, could be featured at a wholly redesigned Seaquarium for years to come, updated regularly for the people of South Florida, most of whom have become very fond of Lolita since her arrival here in 1970. The Seaquarium and Miami do not have to ever lose their positive association with Lolita, unless she needlessly expires in the whale stadium, which would cast a negative shadow on the Seaquarium and the community.

If Lolita stays in the whale tank she is not likely to survive long enough for the debate over development to run its course, nor is she likely to survive long after transport to another captive facility. A timely return to her native waters is the only viable option for Lolita. Lolita is a young adult by wild orca standards, but she has outlived by more than a decade all 44 of the other killer whales captured prior to 1976 from her community. She is not likely to survive much longer in any sized tank.
The Seaquarium has not been granted membership in the AZA because AZA standards require that cetaceans be kept only with companions of their own species. Lolita has been kept solo for 18 years.

Lolita would not just survive, but thrive, in a sea pen in her native waters, as Keiko proved to the world, and ultimately she could rejoin her family, effectively forage cooperatively for fish once again, and resume her normal social role and biological functions after full release. If that proves impossible, she could live out a healthy life, retired in her native habitat, cared for in a sea pen while accessible to the orca community that she is related to. As described at length in "A Review of the Releasability of Long Term Captive Orcas," the report delivered to Mayor Penelas and others in July 1998, there is no significant risk involved in Lolita's relocation to a protected sea pen in her native habitat. Please consider these possibilities.

The obstructions to Lolita's return to her home and family are twofold. First, the Seaquarium owner, Arthur Hertz, has refused to listen to any request to release her or any informed opinion that Lolita is in danger in Miami and that she can and should be returned to Puget Sound.
Second, although the whale tank at the Seaquarium is illegal, the USDA, entrusted to enforce the Animal Welfare Act, has consistently looked the other way, mismeasured the tank, and for at least 15 years has repeated Mr. Hertz' promise that he will build a new tank. A place with 120-some safety violations to its staff, visitors, and animals along with 35 fire hazard violations, one orca death, 61 dolphin deaths, and 53 sea lion deaths over the years is NOT a place a lonely nearly-40-year-old orca needs to be living at.

Lolita (Tokitae) is dieing, and everyone knows it. She could live to her fullest if allowed to be retired to a sea pen and possibly, rehabilitated and returned to her family where she belongs. If she is kept in her prison much longer, she will perish an unruly death of sorrow and anguish covered in a thick coating of regret and guilt and will be unable to re-obtain her right as a free whale. Please help in the fight to free Lolita. Please help us raise one-thousand signatures to help try and persuade Hertz to retire his 'captive'.

In Lolitas Honor,

All the Animal Activists, Scientists, regular every-day people, and everyone else who are trying to free Lolita, the Slave to Entertainment.