Join the Miracle March for Lolita
A Lone Orca's Cry for Freedom – Join the Miracle March for Lolita
By Zach Affolter
Bombs flew from the foggy sky, exploding in the water. After a tiring chase, boats drove a pod of orcas into a small cove in the waters of Washington state. Nets separated mothers from their children. A cacophonous symphony, driven by shrill screams and backed by gun-like staccato notes of thrashing flukes and pounding flippers, echoed across Penn Cove on August 8, 1970.
Adult orcas breached out of the water, agitated as people hoisted their captured children out of the water and onto flatbed trucks. The dissonant symphony grew louder. Frustrated, the remaining juveniles charged the nets, trying to reunite with their parents. Four babies and one of the mothers tangled themselves in the nets. They twisted and convulsed their bodies. However, the net wrapped tightly around them and they drowned. People slit open the carcasses, filled them with rocks, wrapped them in anchor chains, and sunk them under the cover of night in order to hide them from the public.
Representatives from aquariums across the world flocked to the scene, hoping to obtain a killer whale for display. On behalf of the Miami Seaquarium, veterinarian Dr. Jesse White flew to Washington to select a companion for Hugo, a three year old who was captured a year before and sold to the park. Dr. White described one of them, who he named Tokitae, as “so courageous and yet so gentle.” He selected her to become a show-business personality in Miami, where her owner Arthur Hertz gave her the stage name Lolita.
Concrete walls trapped her in an illegally sized tank. Theme park music blared as she leaped towards the crystal blue sky only to be clutched by gravity, whose merciless hands threw her back into the tank. Water exploded into the air. People cheered, unaware of her brutal capture only days before.
Lolita. Via Leonardo DaSilva.
Lolita has remained in these awful conditions for the past 44 years, somehow outlasting most orcas in captivity, who live far shorter lives in captivity than in the wild. It is a testament to her spirit and personality. Despite the trauma she endured from her capture, from losing her tankmate and podmate Hugo to a brain aneurysm, and from enduring solitude, boredom, and stress, Lolita has remained gentle and strong.
Her perseverance inspired Robin Jewell, a lifelong animal advocate, to create the Miracle March for Lolita. It is the largest march ever for a captive cetacean in the United States.
“I watched a video about Lolita and really focused on her,” Jewell said. “I felt her spirit touch me. I began to cry and I felt her pain, loneliness and need to be free with her family.”
The event takes place on Jan. 17 in Miami, Florida at Virginia Key Park, across from the Miami Seaquarium. Over 1000 people will attend, including leaders from the anti captiivty movement will be present to speak about their experiences, knowledge and passion for Lolita. Several bands will also be playing at the event.
“The march will show the world and our nation that we are strong in numbers, that we are demanding a better world for all species,” Jewell said. “We will no longer accept enslavement of a species for human entertainment and it is time to have respect for the sacrifice this being has made and to retire her back to her family.”
Several celebrities, including former NFL wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco and actors Jane Badler, Frazer Hines, William deVry, and Kal Penn, have tweeted about the Miracle March for Lolita, which trended number one on Twitter a few weeks ago. Critically acclaimed journalist and longtime activist Jane Velez Mitchell will also be speaking at the event as the director of Jane Unchained, an online show that speaks out about crimes against people, animals, and the environment.
Many other organizations and companies are endorsing the event, including OrcaBall, The Orca Network, People Against Captivity, Cetacean Society International, Born Free U.S.A., F.L.O.A.T.(For the Love of All Things), Save the Whales, Peggy Oki and the Origami Whales Project, Bikers 4 Orcas SoCal, Blackfish Brigade, and PETA.
A representative from OrcaBall, which creates car hood ornaments and stickers to spread awareness of the captive industry, stated that the company is proud to support the march by designing t-shirts, the march's logo, and giving away OrcaBalls at the event. The company asserted that “keeping orcas in captivity is unethical and cruel” and that more people need to become aware of the suffering they endure in captivity.
After the documentary Blackfish hit the box office in 2013, people's mindsets toward holding cetaceans in captivity evolved into a deeper understanding of their cognitive and emotional abilities. There has been a dramatic outcry against marine parks like SeaWorld and the Miami Seaquarium who hold cetaceans in captivity for entertainment. The Miracle March for Lolita may be a key landmark event in the history of ending this practice.
“There’s a massive upheaval of moral awakening underway right now, and this event could help seal the deal to make it clear to everyone that the people no longer want to keep confining whales and dolphins in performance tanks for our entertainment,” Howard Garrett, the co-founder of Orca Network, said. “That’s now become our sad history, not a reality we want any more, and the march could make that official.”
Photo of L-pod, via Candice Emmons. The orca at the far right is Ocean Sun, presumed to be Lolita's mother.
Lolita has called for help, longing to feel the warm caresses of her mother and family again. Her cries have been heard by many in recent years, including sir Elton John, the famed band Heart, and Ocean Drive Magazine's Jerry Roberts, who offered one million dollars for Lolita's release. Owner Arthur Hertz denied the offer a few years ago and recently sold the Miami Seaquarium to Palace Entertainment.
Jewell hopes that the march will result in Lolita's retirement and eventual return to her endangered family in Puget Sound. Garrett and Ken Balcomb, the founder of the Center for Whale Research and Orca Survey (a study of the Southern Resident pods) developed a plan to safely reintegrate Lolita into her native waters. The plan is centered around placing Lolita in a transitional coastal sanctuary sea pen in Kanaka Bay, Washington, where she will be rehabilitated under human care. When the time is right, she will be given the choice of going back to open waters if she so desires. She will be monitored by veterinary staff throughout the entire process to make sure she is receiving the best health care possible.
“I think that mental stability she demonstrates will help her handle the transition back to her native habitat,” Garrett said.
Lolita's family is identified and well-studied; experts have also confirmed that Ocean Sun is still alive. Experts have confirmed that Ocean Sun is still alive. What makes this plan so strong, according to Garrett, is that she has someone to return home to. If, for some reason she is unable to return, she can stay in the bay, receive human care for the rest of her life, and have the real ocean to swim in. Lolita would be held in an area hundreds of times larger than her 35 foot wide tank where she currently resides in Miami. She would not suffer any echolocation stress due to living in a concrete tank, would not have to perform tricks, swim in circles, or have to be near the blaring music played during her shows.
Artwork via Nathaly Lauren
“Returning Lolita to her native habitat and to her family will reach into the hearts and imaginations of many people in many ways,” Garrett said. “It will be a tale of redemption for the entire human race that can guide us to find other ways to help nature simply live in all its complex and mysterious glory. Our religious and philosophical traditions tell us we are born bad, or at best powerless in the face of greater powers, but we need to see that we can do great things and rejoice in them, in order to do more great things. We have to get over the belief that we are born evil to begin to carry out the kind of positive accomplishments we need to do and are capable of doing. As cultural myth, the story of returning Lolita to her home and family could help redefine who we are.”
Lolita deserves to be retired after enduring suffering, greed, and loneliness throughout the majority of her life. She has taught the world through her perseverance that one can push through the most horrible of calamities and emerge stronger than ever. The sun, no matter how long the clouds may reign in the sky, will eventually pierce through and enrich the world in its warmth. It is time for mankind to awaken and blow these clouds away. The choice is ours alone.
Please join the Miracle March for Lolita. For more information, please visit http://miraclemarchforlolita.com/
Please also consider making a donation of any size to help fund the march: http://www.gofundme.com/freelolita
Donations via PayPal are accepted at: email@example.com
Check out the media advert for the march, featuring an interview with entertainer and slave descendant Robbyne Kaamil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er2bcO0lQlU