Lolita, all alone.


I don’t mean to turn this into the FREE THE WHALES blog or anything, but I have to tell you that I simply cannot get the tragedy from yesterday out of my head. I even dreamed about it last night. Something about it is just hurting me on such a deep level… I can’t say that I have been affected by a horror story like this one, in this way, in a really long time. (The last time was when a whale or dolphin in Canada jumped up too high in its tank while doing a trick, hit its head on a concrete bridge-thing above the tank, broke its jaw and skull and died a very bloody death right in front of spectators. I heard about that sometime in middle school, I think, and found that I couldn’t get THAT out of my head, either. I can’t seem to find the news story about it yet.)

I am not hormonal. I’m not being a bleeding-heart liberal, or anything but MYSELF when I say I am beyond P I S S E D about captive marine mammals right now. When is it going to be enough to make the public stop going there?!

Do you know that today…one DAY after the tragedy… people were “lining up to get into the park” like it was any other day? How could these people not be moved by what happened?! I don’t get it. What kind of message does it send to the children they’re bringing into the park? Oh my God, it makes me want to puke.

I am sitting here at my desk, crying. At work.

Yeah, I know. I should be working. But like I said, it keeps creeping back into my mind and I just want to do something. I want to act, want to make a difference somehow. I’m frustrated.

While reading comments on the story on one of the many news outlets, I heard mention of Lolita, a whale that lives down in the Miami Seaquarium. The name was vaguely familiar. After a quick Google search, I remembered why. When I joined the Humane Society of the U.S. back in my 20s, I joined after reading her story! I recalled how I’d been doing one of my standard searches to research cetacean behavior for my book, and came upon something the HSUS had put together about this poor whale. It moved me to tears, and made me pull out my wallet and donate. So it was HER… she’s the animal that pushed me over the edge and into “I’m giving money” territory. (Here’s something current from the HSUS)

Get the tissues, and read about Lolita’s capture in the 1970s, and how she lives in an illegal tank (much too small for a whale, by law, but the park claims poverty so they never built her a larger tank) right now, all alone, calling out to her lost pod.

If this story doesn’t touch you, I don’t know what to tell you. The thing is, it’s all true. There are even videos of this capture and several news reports about the dead baby whales washing up on shore afterwards… pretty brutal stuff. The kind of thing that makes you go, “I didn’t know humans could be THAT cruel.”

Please help me spread the message around. I feel like blogging and posting on Facebook are my most effective outlets right now, and my friends and other cetacean-sympathizers (the stories are no less sad for dolphins and sea lions, by the way) are my allies, as I really, REALLY try to be part of the movement to stop this insanity, once and for all. I sincerely appreciate anything you might choose to do on your own to help!

This is Hugo… another captured whale that lived with Lolita for 10 years at the Miami Seaquarium before he died. Well, the truth is he kind of bashed his own head into the concrete walls of his tank so much he gave himself a brain aneurysm.

How nice of the local paper to preserve what little could be salvaged of the poor thing’s dignity when he died:

I wonder how human widows would feel about published photos of their deceased husband’s remains being taken from the house on a stretcher? Not that Lolita knew about this photo, of course, but the point is: why be so callous about animals? I mean, come on.

This society has GOT to evolve sometime. God, I hope so.


5 responses »

  1. You gotta remember also, other countries barely respect their people, especially children. Why would they respect animals? We are barely out of that mind set in this country.

    We (well NATO country scientists and activists) have crews out trying to stop whaling near japan and africa and poachers in africa, asia and south america. Those countries there feel like its hard to stop illegal activity on such a grand scale or even dont see whats wrong with killing animals at all.

    The other unfortunate thing is that well meaning, underinformed people do almost as much harm as the people actually trying to do harm for money. Remember the story of supposedly educated suburban Australian biology students reintroducing salt water crocks to Bangladesh, more than a generation after they had been wiped out? Well, of course they started eating people right away. People that had gotten used to not being eaten. You cant go and save animals without a plan, especially without permission from the people who would be near the animals.

    Or the PETA people who released minks from a lab in the North West, knowing ABSOLUTELY nothing about mink voracious and cannibalistic behavior. Most of the minks died.

    Talking about it helps but to make any difference, you gotta be really informed, strategically plan out eventualities and have the authority to go in and tell marine parks to shut down. I think change will happen but obviously not overnight.

  2. If the stupid paying general public would just stop going to these places, maybe the profit wouldn’t be there and they could phase these things out over time. It’s funny, because I have thought a lot about the free the whales thing, and I’m not actually advocating trucking these whales and dolphins out to the open sea and just letting them go. They’re not going to do well in the majority of cases. Keiko, when he was released, was always swimming up to boats and being overly friendly to people. His immune system was compromised from the years of captivity and he was more susceptible to disease and the pneumonia which eventually killed him. Keiko was a picture of good intentions with questionable end results. I do still believe he was much better off spending those last years in the ocean, and passed away there rather than in a concrete tank. But even with millions of dollars, experts, sanctuaries and gradually re-introduction programs, it’s never a sure thing to let a captive animal go back to the wild.

    So I’d think the best thing to do right now would be to stop the performing shows all together. Keep the whales and dolphins that cannot be released to the wild again, take care of them and treat them with respect for the rest of their lives. People can still come to see them, but only to watch them swim around and play on their own. It’s true that you don’t learn anything about animal behavior in a zoo or aquarium… they don’t behave as they would normally. And then, to force them to do stupid ‘pet’ tricks, well, that further distorts reality in a way that really cannot be educational at all, when you think about it.

    We can’t go back in time and NOT capture or breed the animals that are already here, but we can take care of them now that they are and STOP capturing and breeding any more of them. When they all pass away in the future, these parks will need to close up or switch their educational methods if they did want to stay in business under that guise. Capitalism can adapt!!

  3. I read your link about Lolita this weekend and was so, so sad. They had some Sea World people on the Today show this morning, and it was a story about how “the show must go on!” like it was honoring the trainer or something (ka-ching, ka-ching).

    The part where the article talked about whales calling out to their pod – omg, so freaking sad.

  4. I completely agree with you about the whales. In fact, I am pretty much against all zoos as well. Some zoos only house animals that have been wounded or rehabilitated in some way and cannot be re-released back into the wild. I am OK with that. But to see a tiger or a grizzly in a small enclosure, just sitting there, incapable of doing what it was born to do…makes me want to cry.

    I don’t go to zoos, and I don’t go to seaworld.

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