This photo explains without question what happened to resident orcas from the Pacific Northwest Coast in the 1960s and 1970s. Of the 45 delivered to Marine Parks only two are still alive today surviving in their concrete tanks ~ Lolita and Corky remain captive because of us their audience!
~ photo credit: Boycott SEA WORLD ~ urging Cetacean Advocacy
Captivity of animals of any kind has always bothered me and when we first began our whale watching tours and later created our first web-site, the Captivity of Orcas (aka Killer Whales and Blackfish) has always been a huge source of concern for us and we will often talk about and discuss the topic with our guests on board during our tours.
We fully understand that not everyone can afford to take themselves and their children on a whale watching tour to see whales and dolphins in the wild but we do know that most people if they so desire they can watch them on television in documentaries and video’s so designed today to make us feel that we are there with the whales and dolphins as we watch.
As a child growing up in New Zealand I well remember watching the black and white movie ‘Born Free’ and sitting cross-legged on a mat in the teachers staff room with all the curtains drawn as the film reel played onto a rolled down screen in front of my class of 30 children. I so well remember sitting spellbound through the entire movie with the images showing Elsa’s return back into the wild. Those images resonated deep within me at the time and have remained there throughout my life.
I have never forgotten either when my parents took my siblings and I to the Auckland Zoo. What was to have been a treat for us all became a nightmare for me with the sight of seeing an elephant in a small concrete enclosure, a polar bear also in a concrete enclosure and lions pacing back and forth in cages etc……..I will never forget those images and while I have always dreamed of seeing lions and elephants and all the other animals that one can see roaming wild and free in Africa, I quite possibly never will but seeing them in so many documentaries over the years I feel that I have and it has enriched my understanding of the animal kingdom far more than an aquarium or zoo ever could.
Captivity is not the way to educate ourselves or children about wildlife, not in this modern age with easy accessibility to well made narrated video’s and documentaries that most of us can view from the comfort of our own living rooms.
Born Free is a 1966 Technicolor British drama film starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers as Joy and George Adamson, a real-life couple who raised Elsa the Lioness, an orphaned lion cub, to adulthood, and released her into the wilderness of Kenya. The movie was based upon Joy Adamson’s 1960 non-fiction book Born Free.
In my poem below I use the words dolphins and orcas interchanging. With orcas being the largest members of the dolphin family both species are being held in captivity in concrete tanks.
Held Captive In Concrete Tanks
Round and round they go, the largest
dolphins of their kind. Depressed and
lethargic they circle, from years of abuse
by confinement and isolation, separated
from their families, often solitary and living
their lives as prisoners in concrete tanks.
How can men, women and parents today find
any joy in this heartless captive industry when
technology brings to us for free the sights and
sounds from oceans vast via hydrophones
and wildlife web cams. There is no excuse, not
one today for this captive industry to stay alive!
How can you take yourselves and children to see
a depressed and floating orca that has been stolen
from the wild and from its family? In a pool you
do not see their playfulness and awesome wonder
that delights the rest of us who rejoice in seeing
them swimming free on camera and in the wild!
Dolphins travel in all oceans that divide our earth
and yet in knowing this you people still go forth
to see them imprisoned in a tiny concrete pool!
How can you? Surely you know better by now
after endless protests for change and powerful
documentaries like the last one ~ Blackfish.
Do you not see that the tanks are inappropriate
to house their enormous size? Compare it to
locking yourselves or your child inside a closet
or bathroom for a lifetime but so much worse
for in the wild orcas can travel a distance of
some 100 miles each day with their families.
Yet still you go! And your children guided by you
they go too, because you tell them it is okay and
that they will love the orcas so much more because
they will see them black and white, up close while
you allow for them to peer on down into the concrete
pools and through glass walls, shame on you!
~ written by Maureen Towers ~ October 31, 2014
A new documentary:
“A Day in the Life of Lolita” is all about 44 years of misery in a concrete tank!
~ by filmmaker Daniel Azarian:
It’s not easy to cram 44 years of animal misery into one nine-minute documentary, but filmmaker Daniel Azarian has done just that.
Azarian’s documentary short, “A Day in the Life of Lolita,” tells the story of one of the loneliest killer whales in the world, who lives in the smallest orca tank in America, at the Miami Seaquarium.
So why such a short film to tell such a long story?
“The intention was to keep it under 10 minutes so it could be spread via social media and a good amount of information could be disseminated in a fairly short amount of time,” Azarian told The Dodo.
Azarian first heard about Lolita shortly after the 2010 death of SeaWorld Orlando orca trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. “I never really had given orcas much thought, but the story hit the news and made me curious, so I searched online and learned the plight of Lolita, which simply broke my heart.”
Lolita’s story has broken many hearts.
In August 1970, at just four years of age, Lolita, who was initially named Tokitae, which means “nice day” in the Coastal Salish Indian language, was captured during the infamous Penn Cove roundup. Some 80 whales, comprising nearly every member of the Southern Resident orca community, were ensnared. Most were released, but seven youngsters, including Tokitae, were sold to aquariums around the world. She is the only living captive who survived that roundup.
Tokitae was sent to Miami, renamed Lolita and put in the Seaquarium’s small pool as a playmate for a young orca named Hugo, who was taken from Puget Sound in 1968. Hugo would often send high-pitched shrieks across the aquarium grounds, and repeatedly banged his head on the tank wall. One time he broke a viewing window and sliced off the tip of his rostrum on a glass shard.
The two whales performed together for ten years, until March 1980, when Hugo slammed his head into the wall for the last time. A bottlenose dolphin then became Lolita’s only animal companion. Not long after hearing about her story, Azarian met Dr. Ingrid Visser, a killer whale scientist who heads New Zealand’s Orca Research Trust and is a world-renowned anti-captivity advocate.
“I’d never met her in person — I had never seen an orca for that matter — and she graciously asked if I would join her on her trip,” Azarian said. “We decided to film her visit, simply to document and have a record of it.”
One noteworthy aspect of their footage was clear evidence that Seaquarium was in violation of OSHA regulations regarding trainers and their proximity to orca tanks — the film shows one trainer in the water and “riding” Lolita for performance. Last July, OSHA ordered the Seaquarium to prevent its trainers from “wet work and dry work performances” in the pool and the facility had to pay a fine of $7,000.
About a month after filming, Azarian reviewed the footage of Lolita floating alone in her pool. “I didn’t feel sadness. I didn’t feel emotion. I felt dead,” he said. “Lolita was just bobbing there, and appeared to be so out of it. I realized we had something potentially very powerful and at the same time very simple on our hands.”
The film follows Visser as she visits the Seaquarium. “It’s not just a mission of passion, it’s a mission of compassion,” she says to the camera. “It’s a tragically small tank.”
Given a chance to speak with the Seaquarium’s owner, Visser adds, “I’d say, ‘What where you thinking? You wouldn’t treat your children that way. You wouldn’t treat your dog that way.”
As the film notes, the federal Animal Welfare Act mandates that orca tanks must be at least 48 feet in each direction. Lolita’s tank is just 35 feet wide. Her story was also told in the 2003 feature documentary, “Lolita: Slave to Entertainment.”
Lolita’s tragic circumstances have inspired a worldwide movement to return her to her native waters. For years, the Orca Network has promoted a plan to retire the whale to a bay on San Juan Island and, perhaps, eventually reunite her with her family. Last year, the Orca Network, Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA and others petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to include Lolita with her Southern Resident Killer Whale community on the Endangered Species List, meaning she could not be kept in captivity. In January NMFS agreed, opening a 60-day public comment period, after which it has up to 18 months to make a decision.
“The time has come for us to evolve and realize it is no longer ethical to keep these sentient creatures in what basically amounts to a sea circus,” Azarian said. “Hopefully, we are in for a change, but it is still a long road ahead.”
Visser, in the film, makes the point in a more poignant fashion. “The only way Lolita is going to retire otherwise,” Visser says, “is if she dies.”
The story above was written by David Kirby ~ It was featured on The Dodo Facebook ~ October 31, 2014
David Kirby, a regular contributor to the Huffington Post since 2005 and TakePart since 2012, has been a professional journalist for nearly 30 years, and was a contracted writer for The New York Times for four years. He is the author of “Animal Factory,” a highly acclaimed investigation into the environmental impact of factory farms, and “Death at SeaWorld.” Kirby was nominated for four LA Press Club/Southern California Journalism Awards, and won for Best Environmental Reporting of 2013.
ORCA NET WORK http://www.orcanetwork.org/Main/