Forty-three years ago today, the entire Southern resident orca population was being chased toward Whidbey Island in Washington State with speed boats, M-80 bombs, and low flying planes. By sunset, purse seiners had netted off the mouth of Penn Cove and trapped J, K and L pods inside.
Over the following few days, eight orca calves were sold to aquariums around the world, after having been separated from their mothers, dragged by ropes and nets to a dock, put into slings, lifted by a crane onto a flatbed truck and transported to an airport.
Five orcas drowned during the capture, one of them being a mother who was tangled in nets while trying to reach her calf. The other four were calves who drowned in attempts to reach their mothers. As the last calf was being put into a sling at the dock, the entire Southern resident population, who had all been let out of the nets, came over to the baby and started communicating back and forth with her, spy hopping to look at her as she was being lifted out of the water. Once she left the water, all the orcas slowly turned around and headed out of the cove.
The orcas captured over the next few days included: 1 year old male Lil’ Nootka, who lasted 7 months in captivity; 2 year old male Ramu 4, who lasted 1 year; less than 1 year old female Wally, who lasted 1 year in a captive environment; 2 year old male Clovis, who lived 2 and a half years; 2 year old female Chappy, who lasted 3 and half years; 5 year old male Jumbo, who lasted 4 years; 4 year old male Winston, who lasted a whopping 15 and a half years in a tank; 4-6 year old female Tokitae, also known as Lolita, who was the last to leave in that sling and is the last Southern resident orca alive in captivity out of the 45 sold to marine parks. She has spent the last 43 years at Miami Seaquarium in Florida, in the smallest orca tank in the USA, a tank so small it does not meet legal tank size requirements set out by American Government. Please remember Lolita as well as all the orcas who were involved in this capture over the next few days (via Melisa Pinnow). Photo: Tokitae/Lolita (via Susan Berta, Orca Network).
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