Orca Network Dr Ingrid Visser Lolita The Orca

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Orca Network Dr Ingrid Visser Lolita The Orca

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[Orca Network Dr Ingrid Visser Lolita The Orca]

AUGUST 8, 1970

80 orcas were rounded up using speedboats & explosives

Seven were brutally captured

Shipped to marine parks

5 ORCAS WERE KILLED

A 4-year old was taken from her mother

Sent to the Miami Seaquarium

Summer 2013
Miami, Florida

Dr Ingrid N. Visser
Orca Biologist

I’m Dr. Ingrid Visser and I’m here in Miami to see Lolita, the orca, who’s in captivity just over there. It’s a real mission for me to be here in terms of a mission to get education out to the public about what’s going on, but it’s also a mission because I care about her.

One of the reasons that I want to come and see Lolita is that I’m really concerned about the conditions that she’s being kept and now you hear that she’s in a very small tank, you hear that she’s got no environmental enrichment nothing to do all day except for a couple of shows and I really want to come and document that and use my expertise as a wild orca biologist and put that into perspective for people.

A lot of the payout with these aquariums like Sea World like Miami Seaquarium that keep whales and dolphins in captivity, is they say that it’s for educational purposes, but I just can’t see how its education. You know if it was education, we’ve had forty years of it, why do we still have to have them in captivity. Surely, we’d be educated enough by now.

You know as adults, we have grown up with these animals in captivity, so we should be the ones that shutting it down now. As a scientist, I find it something that I have to do to try and help these animals. From a personal point of view, it’s not just a mission of passion; it’s also a mission of compassion.

Miami Seaquarium

[Dr Ingrid N. Visser (Orca Biologist):]
Wow. I mean I knew this was small, but this small? On an average day, when I met with orca in the wild, I can follow them for five to eight hours and I can follow them over easily fifty kilometers. And in that timeframe, I would see them typically sleeping, hunting, socializing. They would be food sharing. They would obviously be traveling during that timeframe. And yet when you see an orca in captivity, you see them just either lying there despondently or you see what’s termed

Stereotypic Behaviors

Abnormal
Repetitive
Behaviors

Stereotypic behaviors and those are abnormal repetitive behaviors. So that might be chewing on the concrete. It might be swimming in a circle.

[Dr Ingrid N. Visser (Orca Biologist):]
People are used to seeing animals like bears or tigers pacing up and down, you see exactly the same thing with whales and dolphins when you know what to look for. They just go around and around the tank. They typically surface at exactly the same spot. And the fact that these animals can’t travel, they’re confined within these tiny little blue cylinders, is really, really difficult to watch.

So this is very typical stereotypic behavior, just head lifting like that.

When you look at an orca in the wild compared to an orca in captivity, there is this huge difference. I mean, it’s literally indescribable.

So as a biologist, I try my best to explain to people where those differences lie, but you can never really explain to someone unless they’ve seen them in the wild and that’s the hard bit because most people want that instantaneous gratification. They want that guarantee of seeing an animal, so they go to see them in captivity. Yet in reality when they see them in captivity, they’re not seeing the same thing.

[MIAMI SEAQUARIUM Announcer:]
“…Lolita our killer whale!”

[Dr Ingrid N. Visser (Orca Biologist):]
Ah, how can I call that education? So I just went in to see Lolita and I know the facts. I mean I know exactly the dimensions of the tank. I know the dimensions of her. But when you actually see it, you realize how tragically small that tank is.

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) states that a tank for an orca the size of Lolita must be 48 ft in each direction, with a straight line of travel across the middle.

Lolita’s tank is 35 feet wide

[Dr Ingrid N. Visser (Orca Biologist):]
So there’s a very robust plan in place to help Lolita retire. It involves training her for simple things like being able to move in a bigger environment and to be able to catch live fish again and we would never just throw her out into the ocean and just say right you’re on your own sunshine.

So the idea with the rehabilitation plan is that she would be retired into a little secluded cove that would be netted off and that would give her the ocean experience, but on a small scale, so that she wouldn’t be frightened.

She’d have rocky bottom, pebbles, seaweed, fish and the currents and the waves all of those things that should be, what she should have in her natural life, not in the sea circus that she is having to do here, purely for people’s entertainment.

You’re all using an animal that’s just basically a facsimile – a puppet of what a real orca is. It’s just tragic that she’s being kept in there – in that torturous environment for this long.

[Dr Ingrid N. Visser (Orca Biologist):]
If I could meet with the owner of the aquarium and he was actually open to listening, I would say to him, what are you thinking? You wouldn’t treat your children that way. You wouldn’t even treat your dog that way. Why do you treat a sentient, caring animal with a brain that’s as intelligent as yours this way? You know have a heart. You’ve spent forty years making money off this animal. You know the only way Lolita is going to retire otherwise as if she dies.

Lolita’s tank size, as well as other issues surrounding her care, are a clear violation of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

The USDA, responsible for implementing the AWA, refuses to acknowledge or hold the Seaquarium accountable for these violations.

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Orca Network Dr Ingrid Visser Lolita The Orca

Orca Network Dr Ingrid Visser Lolita The Orca

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Penn Cove Capture photos
courtesy of
Torrell Newby and Wallie Funk

Directed by
Daniel Azarian

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