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Lolita's (Tokitae's) capture in Penn Cove almost half a century ago

Lolita’s (Tokitae’s) capture in Penn Cove almost half a century ago

Yesterday, August 8th, was the 44th anniversary of the Penn Cove Capture. In this sickening, inhumane event, a large group of wild orcas was chased into a cove near Whidbey Island, Washington with speedboats and explosives. Seven were taken into captivity and five died during the roundup, including a mother trying to rescue her calf.

No feeling person could read an account of how the orcas responded during this event and not feel disgusted by it. Orcas are intelligent mammals with their own language and culture, and because scores of them were captured in Northwest waters in that time period, they are an endangered species today.

Only one of the orcas captured near Penn Cove– also the oldest captive orca anywhere– is still alive. Lolita, originally called Tokitae, has been at the Miami Sequarium ever since 1970 when she was taken from her pod. She is nearing 50, and for the past 44 years has been having to dance for her food in a substandard-sized tank in the hot sun.

She still recognizes her native tongue; she still has relatives, including an orca in her 90s who is likely her mother, roaming the Salish Sea in the Northwest. Despite all the efforts to bring her back to a sea pen in her native waters, the Miami Seaquarium still won’t allow her to come home and our government has failed to make it happen. Lolita/Tokitae is the Seaquarium’s star attraction and has made untold millions for them.

The Penn Cove Capture of Southern Resident Orcas, August 1970

The Penn Cove Capture of Southern Resident Orcas, August 1970

Howard Garrett of the Orca Network provided a link to this documentary in a recent newsletter, Lolita: Slave to Entertainment. This film was made in 2003, and sadly, more than 11 more years have passed without improvements in her situation. As the experts interviewed in this piece said, this orca will be worked until she’s dead. She’s already outlasted the rest of her captured peers, some by decades. Some captured orcas have even killed themselves, as did Kathy, the lead dolphin in the Flipper TV series. It’s why Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry became a marine animal rights activist.

You’d think that after 44 years the Miami Seaquarium’s owners could show a little compassion and let their star attraction retire in peace. Orcas have life spans similar to humans and I know that when I hit 50 I don’t want anyone keeping me locked in a bathroom and making me do ballet for a sandwich a couple times a day. I don’t want that now. Yet this amazing creature, who has shown such resilience and spirit despite the daily cruelty she endures, is required to do exactly that in a crappy concrete prison that’s not even properly sized.

Please take an hour to watch Lolita: Slave to Entertainment in memory of what happened at Penn Cove (and elsewhere in the Northwest in the 1960s and 1970s). Some clips, like seeing Lolita/Tokitae float listlessly and alone in her tub between shows and at night, are difficult to watch. But this is a story every schoolchild in the Northwest and in Florida should know. This is an issue all Washingtonians should unite on.

Now is a good time to make your voice heard. As the Orca Network has pointed out, last month the Miami Seaquarium was purchased by Palace Entertainment, which owns over 70 theme parks. We have an opportunity to change the barbaric practice of orca capture and confinement; let’s do this. The Orca Network’s Lolita page has links so that you can easily contact Palace Entertainment.You can read Howard Garrett’s letter to Palace Entertainment here.

Tokitae Ferry

Next time you board the new Washington State ferry Tokitae, take a moment to think of who it’s named after. Your involvement could save her life. Photo by Karen Ducey, Puget Sound Business Journal.

When the half a century-old Lolita is finally brought home to a sea pen in the San Juan Islands, I’d imagine that her reaction would be similar to Raju the elephant’s, who was just released from 50 years of captivity. Raju had been beaten and forced to wear spiked chains. He ate what he could get from passing tourists but sometimes ate plastic just to fill his stomach. When his captors knew he was about to be rescued they chained him even tighter, and then when those shackles finally came off, he cried.

Raju

Like orcas, elephants are highly intelligent animals who live in groups, and Raju went through 50 years of hell as well. He now lives in a refuge with five other elephants who have welcomed him as a friend. He can now spend the last chapters of his life eating regular food, being loved by a family, and being properly cared for by humans instead of exploited.

I hope for the same for Tokitae. Together we can make it happen.

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A righteous man regards the life of his animal,

But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Proverbs 12:10

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©2014 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. 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/wildninjablog.com.

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From the Portland Press Herald

From the Portland Press Herald

Ariel Castro. This name has now joined the ranks of other recent captors and rapists like Phillip and Nancy Garrido, Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, and Josef Fritzl. For over nine years this psychopath mercilessly tortured three young women he kidnapped and kept locked up in his home. Day after day, for about 3400 straight days, his victims endured this sadist’s demonic fantasies.

Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, and Amanda Berry endured brutal sexual assaults, beatings– including to induce miscarriages– starvation, and all manner of horrors in Castro’s dungeon. Berry gave birth to a daughter during this ordeal– imagine what that child has been through. These women now have serious medical problems and have been through unspeakable psychological trauma. Today I heard that one woman needs reconstructive surgery. (more…)

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