Saturday, August 15, 2009

Standards of Care for Endangered Whales

Most of our readers here know that L-pod member "Lolita" is from a locally endangered population of orcas, one of only 86 of those whales left. Her life is far from ideal, and she is not being kept in a pool that is legal, even by the low standards set by the theme parks. And what we want to know is how this can be rectified.

In the wild, orcas rarely stop moving. (Photo courtesy OrcaNetwork, taken by Peter Pijpelink)
Marine mammals are protected everywhere in the wild, but when "Lolita's" pod, along with the other pods that comprise the Southern Resident Killer Whales received the status of Endangered in 2007, an exception was written into the documents excluding all members of J, K, and L pods living in captivity at the time. "Lolita" was, and remains, the only living member taken from the wild…so the exception must have been written in to exclude one lonely isolated orca.

Now how did that come to pass? Would it not have made more sense to offer her protection and then let the theme park petition to keep her? Would they then not have had to provide a legal pool for her?

And shouldn't biologists decide what are adequate facilities for marine mammals, not the theme parks themselves?

We are curious about the lives of dolphins and whales (Creative Commons photo)
As a society our values seem to have taken a shift since the early days of zoos, circuses, and theme parks - we really don't enjoy tired acts and worn out displays, and it is painful to think about intelligent, harmless and gentle beings confined in miserable looking situations away from others of their own species.

Yet we are conflicted…we have learned a great deal about orcas and other dolphins by studying captives, and we want to increase our knowledge. Reasonably enough, both polls (here and Facebook) show that if dolphins and whales are in captivity, most poll takers expressed that it should be for research purposes – although I think that there is far more to be gained by researching them in the wild at this point.

In the meantime, a member of a locally endangered species languishes in a sad theme park without the company of her own species, in a substandard pool.

I have written to both Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell and requested that they share with us explanations as to the government's lack of action, and will post their replies when I receive them.


  1. I would be interested in their answers as well.

    I just posted "An Orca Named Lolita - Part 13 - What YOU can do to help" on my Examiner page. I've listed the addresses for Secretary Tom Vilsack of the Dept of Agriculture (who is supposed to be in charge of inspecting the parks), the Humane Society of the US, and President Obama. I will also add Murray and Cantwell's addresses as well.

    Lolita has more than earned her retirement and it's time for her to come home.

  2. Here is a link to Carole's helpful article:

  3. Glad you guys can use the material I made when I was visiting the seaprison in Miami to show the public how small a pen Lolita has. I do hope like many others that Lolita one day can return to her home waters...

  4. Peter - Thank you for your gracious sharing of your work, if we all just do our part we will get her home!

  5. let whales live!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Whales have the wright to live!!!!!!!

  6. Free all Orcas and dolphins...I once was wild dolphins of the San francisco coast and they looked sooo amazing and happy jumping in the waves...and ive been to the Sea world and have touched the dolphins and its all good but I think they should all be set free...not held captive for our entertainment...its unhumane


Candace Calloway Whiting