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article imageOp-Ed: PETA launches powerful petition against orca captivity

By Elizabeth Batt     Jun 28, 2013 in Environment
With the deadline looming for a solitary orca held in captivity at Miami Seaquarium, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is using original images of her capture to plead her case and launch a public pledge against captivity.
Lolita, also called Tokitae, was one of the first whales captured in a brutal roundup that captured orcas for display in marine parks between 1965 and 1973. Lolita was a member of L-Pod, one of three pods -- along with J and K pods, that comprised the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) community.
Depleted and still recovering from the mass captures, in 2005, all of the Southern Resident whales were listed as an endangered species by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), but Lolita wasn't afforded this status because she was caught "pre-act."
A petition filed jointly by the Animal Defense League Fund, PETA and The Orca Network asking that Lolita be included with her family in the Endangered Species Act, was finally accepted by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on Apr. 24, 2013.
If Lolita is included with her pod in the ESA, it will pave the way for more protection for the orca. The possibility for her to be rehabilitated and released back to her family will also increase exponentially.
With the deadline for public comment on Lolita's welfare nearing closure (midnight tonight), PETA has launched a devastating presentation using original photos from the orca's capture to describe in detail her capture as it happened.
Images reveal the devastation
Posted at SeaWorld of Hurt.com and called, "The Heartbreaking Real-Life Capture of Orcas for SeaWorld and Miami Sequarium," the haunting tale begins in 1970. "Deafening explosives, speedboats and airplanes at Puget Sound," PETA writes, "led to a lifetime of confinement and exploitation of orcas in marine parks and aquariums around the world."
Terry Newby, a young marine mammal researcher who was present at the capture and took photographs of the chaos, described the cries of the orcas as so traumatic and heartbreaking, "he can still hear their screams today."
Of ten orcas captured between 1970 and 1971, PETA adds, fifty percent of them went to SeaWorld. Lolita was sent to Miami Seaquarium where she remains today, the sole survivor of the capture.
Having spent more than four decades in captivity, Lolita has not seen another of her kind in more than 30 years. Meanwhile, her mother, Ocean Sun or L 25, is still very much alive and continues to enjoy life in the wild.
Devastating statistics
The Penn Cove captures (1970).
The Penn Cove captures (1970).
Dr. Terry Newby
Coupled with original images from the capture process, PETA's dynamic presentation is both shocking and heartbreaking. The statistics of the captures however, show the true devastation of the cost to the Southern Resident Killer Whale community.
"During the 15 years of capture in Washington and British Columbia," PETA writes:
275 TO 307 WHALES WERE CAUGHT;
55 WERE TRANSFERRED TO AQUARIUMS;
12 OR 13 DIED DURING CAPTURE OPERATIONS.
All of the whales captured, were young orcas ripped away from their mothers meaning that almost an entire generation was wiped out. It changed the dynamics of the pods forever, a fact acknowledged by NMFS in the following statement:
The capture of killer whales for public display during the 1970s likely depressed their population size and altered the population characteristics sufficiently to severely affect their reproduction and persistence.
The captures were a major factor in determining ESA protections for the SRKW community. Of all of the Southern Resident orcas captured off the coasts of Washington and British Columbia, Lolita remains the only survivor. For yet more perspective, consider this: The orcas captured with Lolita all died young; in stark contrast, Lolita's mother is still alive and well.
Given that the longevity of killer whales (especially females), can rival our own, Lolita can be considered middle-aged. Miami Seaquarium touts Lolita as an astounding orca whose longevity is unparalleled. This is certainly true for captive orcas, yet the oldest wild killer whale in the Southern Resident community right now, is J2, affectionately called "Granny." Granny is estimated to be more than 100 years old.
PETA's presentation concludes by asking for an evaluation of the information and how it makes you feel: "Outraged, Heartbroken or Inspired?" Choosing one of these options offers the visitor an opportunity to take a pledge never to visit a marine park with captive cetaceans again.
Helping Lolita right now
While there is nothing to be done for those orcas who were cruelly captured and subsequently perished, signing the pledge could help raise awareness and change future opinions on the captive display industry. However, there is an opportunity to help the final survivor of this terrible ordeal right now.
Lolita performing
Lolita performing
Piotr Domaradzki, Miami, FL, 1998
According to The Orca Network, their joint petition asking for Lolita to receive ESA protection, has a terrific chance of being successful. If it is, they add, the solitary orca, "must be accorded all the legal protections provided to her extended family. That would mean that her incarceration in a concrete box for the benefit of the entertainment industry would henceforth be illegal."
The public has the perfect opportunity to seek better conditions for Lolita by simply leaving a comment in support of ESA protection for her at the Federal Register. There are just a few hours left to help the orca. The deadline expires at midnight tonight.
PETA's presentation can be viewed here.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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