(WSB photos/video by Patrick Sand)
A gathering this afternoon around West Seattle’s replica of a powerful symbol of human freedom was organized in hopes of winning freedom for a fellow mammal held captive thousands of miles away:
Taken from her family and her Puget Sound home more than 40 years ago, the orca known as Lolita (originally Tokitae), a member of L-Pod, has spent all that time in a tank at the Miami Seaquarium. Of the dozens of killer whales captured all those years ago, she is the last survivor. This afternoon’s Alki gathering was in support of a larger rally in Miami, stepping up the pressure for Lolita to be “retired” and returned home.
From Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza, advocates, many with signs, headed on a one-mile march along the beach – here’s our video:
We estimated at least 150 supporters here; MiamiHerald.com estimates a thousand participants at today’s rally there. They heard from Howard Garrett of the Whidbey Island-based Orca Network, describing the plan already proposed for reintroducing Lolita to the wild via a sea pen in the San Juans. It’s not new, but there is a potential milestone driving the new attention – a federal ruling expected this month on whether Lolita will be officially included in the listing of endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. That would not guarantee freedom for her, but could at least step up the pressure. According to the Miami Herald, the Seaquarium says flatly she’s not for sale and shouldn’t be freed. Meantime, back at Alki, Lolita’s supporters came from all age groups:
Advocates said that other support rallies were planned in San Diego, Los Angeles, Colorado Springs, Germany, and the UK.