Captive Orcas

Kandu's Death 1989
Kandu V’s Death at SeaWorld California in 1989

Today Howard Garrett and Susan Berta of the Orca Network sent out an email update on Tokitae (Lolita), the captive Salish Sea native who has spent 40 years in substandard conditions at the Miami Seaquarium. I appreciate their ongoing efforts to free Tokitae and save other marine mammals from life as prisoners.

Their news release referenced a report titled Keto & Tilikum Express the Stress of Orca Captivity (

Written by highly educated former SeaWorld trainers, this insight into the hell in which captive orcas live is something that every person with a conscience should read. The Captive Orca Longevity Tables are gut-wrenching. Please note that this document is not suitable for children.

The majority of this report, with comments, is posted on the Orca Project’s website at Many of the comments have links to more information about the efforts to bring Tokitae back to the Northwest and other issues.

It is mind-blowing that in a society that claims to be so civilized and charitable, relatively few people seem to care about our orcas. They are a species with their own languages and culture, who feel loneliness and pain as much as we do. They are highly social creatures, and Tokitae hasn’t seen another whale in 30 years. Even so, she remembers her native dialect.

I’ve said it before, but keeping Tokitae in the tub she’s lived in for 40 years since her capture near Whidbey Island is the equivalent of locking a person in a bathroom for life and making them dance for food. There is a rational plan to bring her home to retirement in her native waters, and we need to keep the pressure on to make this happen.

You can sign up for email updates at the Orca Network’s website, Feel free to pass these links on– the Northwest needs to speak out with one voice about our girl in Miami.


Follow-up: I just posted this comment on the Orca Project’s site in response to someone who’s questioning the credibility of the report.

People may criticize orca advocates and their research, but even if you remove all such people and information from the equation, and all possible credibility and source issues aside, one simple and glaring fact remains: it is cruel to keep marine mammals in captivity unless they are unable to survive in the wild.

They are too social, too intelligent, and too cultured to be forced to live like this. That is common sense. It is also consistent with the Creator’s mandate that we be stewards of His creation.


©2011 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

2 thoughts on “Captive Orcas

  1. H, thank you for posting this. My co-author, John Jett, Phd, and myself worked for almost a year to produce the paper you refer to. We hope by combining our voices, with yours and others, that we can make a difference. Thank you.


  2. Thanks for your comments over on The Orca Project, I appreciate them.

    We have a few stories on Tokitae, the lax way APHIS handles her situation, how to help, and how to get her home.
    (This one needs updating as in the beginning where it says, “my written accounts”, that story was linked on to Thomas Paine’s Corner, which is no longer in business. That was the first time I went to see her. Rick Rose was filling in as her trainer, and she was quite unhappy. I will repost on TOP soon.)

    I’ll never stop fighting for her and raising awareness on how to get her home. Shelby Proie is a huge inpiration and Toki, well – she is such a gentle, sweet soul, and she knows we are out there fighting for her.

    Also, if you navigate around The Orca Project, you’ll see many stories. One about Nami’s untimely death, former trainers Carol Ray and John Jett giving interviews, Morgan – and the plan to get her home (that was a Christmas gift for Howie 😉 And many other articles listed under “categories”. One that is very important is the one about Tilikum and his current life. He’s been in isolation now for 332 days now and everyone needs to know how he is languishing there. It’s one thing to hear it, but it is another to see it.

    I go to check on him (and Toki) often. And though I get a ton of criticism from the anti-captivity folks, as well as the odd-ball pro freedom fighter, it doesn’t stop me because it is important that people know how they are doing – mentally, physically and spiritually. We know places like MSQ and SeaWorld won’t tell us the truth.

    Thank you again for supporting us at TOP and doing what you do here. It is greatly appreciated.

    Colleen Gorman


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