Letter To The Editor – Where is our empathy for Lolita?

by MARSHA HANSEN

The movement to return Lolita, aka Tokitae, to her home and family has gained momentum recently. Is she capable of surviving the move? There is always risk, but how risky would it be? She seems healthy. Her teeth are intact. The Miami Seaquarium says she’s very healthy. She performs vigorous shows twice a day with energy to spare. She’s well cared for but she’s outlived almost all other captive orcas because she’s a survivor. She can certainly swim into a comfy sling and ride in a water-filled carrier back to her familiar home waters.

In August the Lummi Tribal Council in Washington declared their dedication to bringing her home. The Lummis have inhabited the land and water where she was captured, and where her sea pen is planned, for thousands of years. The Miami Beach City Commission recently called on the Miami Seaquarium to return Lolita to her native waters, followed by Broward County passing a similar resolution. These are the beginnings of strong political support for the plan.

Her friends believe in her. She possesses a very large brain and has a long memory. She still knows where her home is, who her family is, how to communicate with them, and how to catch fish. She still calls out to her family daily.

Orcas learn lifelong cultural traditions “without parallel except in humans,” according to  published science. Why would she forget who she is and where she comes from? Her native habitat is her home.

Orcas are off the charts in their cognitive, empathic and memory capabilities, and Toki shows impressive courage and gentleness, stamina and patience, and seems acutely aware and responsive. Can we see her objectively, with empathy? She is not a theoretical animal. Her retirement plan is at OrcaNetwork.org. Why can’t she go home?

PROPOSAL TO RETIRE THE ORCA TOKITAE/LOLITA TO HER NATIVE HABITAT
IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

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