The Truth about Lolita…?
It came to the attention of longtime Lolita advocate, Shelby Proie of SaveLolita.com, through an anonymous tip, March 4th 2011, at about 10 am., that Lolita (better known as Toki/Tokitae to her followers) has not been performing in the shows the past week, and is not scheduled to perform again in the near future. At least, not in the near future is what you get when you call or go to the Miami Seaquarium (MSQ), as they typically tell you, “Call back tomorrow”.
However, hundreds if not thousands of her adoring fans lit up the lines at MSQ when the story broke of her non-performance wanting to know, “Is Lolita doing shows?” And if not, “How is she?” and “When will she be back?” Quite unexpectedly, and not long after people started calling on Friday, news reports and press releases came out saying, “Lolita is down with a tooth infection“, or “Lolita the Killer Whale show is shelved due to a toothache.” However, that is not what everyone was being told by Miami Seaquarium staff. Some people are told she has a tooth infection, while others are told, they are doing maintenance on her pool. Such is the case with an Earthrace Conservation-Miami chapter ECO-warrior who went to the gate Friday afternoon and was told, “They are working on her tank.” – even after the press releases were sent out pointing to her ailment.
Even yesterday, Monday March 7th, a patron was told “They are working on her tank.”
She asked three different employees what was going on with Lolita.
These were the 3 different responses:
- She is not well and therefore resting.
- She is being treated for a tooth infection.
- Maintenance is being done on the tank.
“The last statement was particularly interesting since it came from the vendor at the entrance of the Stadium (the man selling drinks and ice cream). I told the man I heard Lolita was sick – but he said he hadn’t heard that (and apparently meant it). Clearly, Seaquarium employees have always been incredibly unknowledgable about any situation there but I thought it was interesting to hear from the man who stands right next to the Stadium. He may have been instructed to say so but that would be very inconsistent communication on the
“I also managed to speak to someone at the Manatee pool who emphasized that they are doing everything in their power to preserve a tooth (the ailing one I presume). Technically speaking the tooth should be removed, according to the source, but at this stage the Seaquarium wishes to solve the problem through antibiotics only, as opposed to removing it. When asking if this was “life-threatening”, no one was able to answer.”
So what IS the truth about Lolita?
Considering her work history, 2 or 3 show per day for 40+ years, MSQ says Toki has had a recurring tooth issue since 1994. Yet, there is no record of her not performing in shows in recent history, and most certainly not for a one week period. Did they think that telling the world she has a tooth infection that it would bring comfort to the masses knowing what we know about teeth infections in Killer Whales and how deadly they are to them?
You can see recent photos of Loilita’s teeth below~ courtesy of Chris Lagergren. Note: Focus in on photo #4, her upper left tooth, gums and the gash on her rostrum.
And what about this tank maintenance/repairs story? She has been in the same barren/illegal tank for 40 plus years, so undoubtedly they have learned how to clean/repair it without giving her a one week hiatus. And, if they need to do repairs on her tank, why are some staff members telling people she has a toothache, and others are saying another thing? One can only assume they not receive the memo about her illness, and this is quite alarming to those of us that care about her.
~ “From my experience, this is a prime example of the marine park industry’s typical desire to keep the public in dark regarding orca care, and what goes on behind closed doors. It’s shameful.” ~ Former whale trainer, Carol Ray.
On Saturday, late morning, several demonstrators went back to SQ for an impromptu rally as well as to get answers. Everyone is being told a different story depending who they talk with. With people from around the world and as far as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Spain, Turkey and Italy calling in concerned, they are answering some verbally or transferring you to a recording saying, “The Whale show is currently closed. Lolita is fine, she has a toothache and is being treated with antibiotics”. However, many caring people who politely ask how she is are being hung up on. And if you post a question on their FaceBook page kindly asking about her, you are immediately deleted and blocked.
Sunday outside MSQ, several eye-witnesses reported a helicopter landing near her stadium around 2 pm, and men running out with backpacks towards her stadium. In all the years that people have lived and worked near the aquarium, none of them have ever seen a helicopter land there. When literally hundreds of concerned citizens started contacting SQ and several media outlets to get answers, they said, “No helicopter landed there. It is just a rumor.” However, there are photos dispelling the media’s said rumor.
Which brings us to another question; why aren’t the media outlets doing this story? After all, she is an icon of the city she’s been held captive in for 40 years going now. According to a 25 second story from Channel 7 news Sunday evening, MSQ is saying, “She is eating normally and being treated with antibiotics.” But which tooth are we talking about exactly? People want to know; what precisely were the circumstances that made them aware she had said “toothache” anyhow? More than likely, as is typical with an orca when they are unwell, she became lethargic and stopped eating. At this time, it seems only logical that they took a blood sample and found her white cell count off the charts and started treating her immediately. But why keep her out of the shows for this long of a period of time unless she is indeed deathly ill?
“The evasive maneuvers taken by the MSQ to keep the public in the dark as to the true nature of Lolita’s health perfectly demonstrate the captive marine mammal industry’s willingness to lie to protect their “investment” at all costs. No news leaves everyone who cares about this whale to think the worst – Lolita is either dead or gravely ill. It’s an unbalanced relationship between the public and the aquarium. On the one hand, there is an entire marketing machine dedicated to creating the illusion of a “family relationship” between Lolita and the public. Yet, ironically, the MSQ has apparently turned their back on all the supporters who have loved and cared for this whale over the past 40 years and I find that to be cruel and unnecessary.What makes this situation particularly offensive is that that we’ve had the opportunity to return Lolita to her family for 40 years. Yet it appears that she may die the same way she’s lived most of her life – alone in a tiny pool. This situation is way beyond tragic and nothing the MSQ does in the future can ever make up for the way they’ve treated not only Lolita but the people who love her.” ~Former Killer Whale trainer, Samantha Berg.
What is with the secrecy from Seaquarium? “The information blackout inside the park is a story itself”, says Howard Garrett of Orca Network. And he is exactly right. Why isn’t the media allowed access to SQ? And why are we not allowed to get live video feed – even if for only 5 minutes - from some outside marine mammal vet of her current state of activity and environment? Would it be that difficult for MSQ to grant an interview to media with head Curator Robert Rose and some of her trainers, or the marine mammal “experts” who are supposedly watching over her right now? Taking into consideration that she supposed to be on “display” to the general public and used to hundreds if not thousands of people parading in and out of her stadium a couple of times a day - 5 or 10 minutes of quietly viewing her couldn’t possibly stress her out any more.
She’s approximately 44 years old right now and been in captivity for 40 years and 7 months, to the day. The Mean Duration of Captivity (MDC) for captives is less than 9 years. How is she surviving this long? In our opinion, and the opinion of several experts, it is her resilient spirit and the outpouring of love she feels from all the wonderful human beings who would like nothing more than for Miami Seaquarium and the Hertz family to take the opportunity to become heroes by retiring her after all her years of labor.
Thousands and thousands of people around the world are truly concerned for this beautiful soul who is an anomaly for survival rate of captive orcas, and who has by far earned the right to retire in peace where her family resides. As many know, there is a well thought out plan for every step of her rehabilitation/retirement and, the site is already secured. Perhaps this is the situation which will urge them to get her there.
Through the help of you, the people, we are calling on you to do whatever you can to spread awareness to her plight. Below is what you can do to help.
- Politely call Miami Seaquarium and ask them to tell you what is going on with Lolita. 301-361-5705
- Most importantly: Call all news and newspapers asking what is going on? Ask them for information from MSQ as to Lolita’s status, and ask them to go there or do flyovers and report back what is happening.
CH 10 954-364-2500.
Miami Herald: 305-350-2111
For an amazing look at Lolita’s family, and where she will hopefully one day return… watch this beautiful audiovisual montage “Voice of the Orcas” of K & L pods in the Haro Strait of the Pacific Northwest.
Produced by Jeffrey Ventre MD and filmed by Ken Balcomb, with Howard Garrett, Candi Emmons, and Dave Ellifrit on board. “Song of the Stars” sung by Dead Can Dance; mixed with vocalizations from A, G, J, and R clans (pods) with some transients and offshores. Photos were provided by all of the above with additional stills from Drs Astrid VanGinneken & Jeffrey Ventre. Dedicated to Katina, Taima, Tilikum, Nebron, and Lolita. Note: This footage has not previously been available to the public. Please share… and enjoy!