Friday 01 April 2016 | 15

Lolita, the Orca who kept hoping

At Miami Seaquarium, Lolita turns in circles. She doesn't know, but we are working to save her. For her perhaps: freedom. Soon.

Hr blog

The prison

Today, Lolita swims in a circular aquarium of 24 by 11 metres, and with a depth of 3 to 6 metres, surrounded by spectator benches under the Florida sun. When she turns upwards, her tail fin touches the ground, because her body is 6m long. Completely alone for 36 years now, she shares her tiny prison with a few Pacific white-sided dolphins.

The only Orca companion that she ever had was Hugo, caught two years earlier from the same L pod clan. Most likely a brother or a cousin. The couple never had children, even though the two captives were extremely affectionate with each other, sometimes publicly. Lolita and Hugo lived together for ten years in the "whale jar". Unable to cope with captivity, Hugo died from a brain haemorrhage by hitting his head repeatedly against the walls of the tank in the Spring of 1980. Lolita plunged into despair and there were concerns for her life. But the little orca kept going and today she is surviving the intolerable. Does she doubt what is planned for her? Is it hope that has kept her going far longer than a human would in her circumstances?


On the outside, everything has been prepared for her. A reliable rehabilitation plan has been established for Lolita by her longstanding friend, Howard Garrett, (founder of the Orca network), and a team of scientists. We just need a gesture from the company Aspro Ocio, who own her as well as the Antibes orcas, to open her prison doors to allow for an amazing occurrence in the close future. Imagine….


Lolita is in a bay close to the San Juan Islands, in the ocean off Washington State, having been transported by plane there. It has been a few weeks now since she rediscovered what she had never really forgotten: to catch her own fish, to dive, to voyage in the ocean. Her human friends take care of her but are becoming more and more discrete. One beautiful morning, we can hear a sequence of whistles coming from the ocean. The Southern Resident Orca Community is returning! 

It's the L Pod, her natal clan. The wild orcas swim carefully along the net cutting the creek, trying first of all to understand. Who is this stranger? They interrogate her, she clumsily responds in their dialect. It has been such a long time since she has spoken to someone! 

Suddenly, in the crowd of gathered orcas, a matriarch detaches herself and comes closer. She addresses the stranger, whistling her name, questioningly. Lolita starts and replies. They know each other! "Mother?..." Yes, it's Ocean Sun, her 80 year old mother who is looking straight at her. The net gently falls to the ground, whilst the two orcas lean on each other for the first time in 46 years! We don't know how orcas cry, but these two are surely crying in happiness. Now, all of the tribe wriggle, dive, hit the waves and welcome the unimaginable escapee from hell. Soon, their large fins will line up together, taking Lolita to the dark waters of Puget Sound. She was right to keep hoping…

But all of this is still a dream. Help us make it real.

Yvon Godefroid
Hr blog

In the subject

Open letter for the attention of Barbara Pompili
Ode to Orcas: young people speak out for the release of captive orcas

Comments 15

I accept that publication of my comments is subject to the code of conduct.

Neferkitty | Friday 01 April 2016

Je pleure comme une madeleine à la lecture de cet article. Je croise les doigts si fort pour elle...

Lea | Friday 01 April 2016

J'espère de tout mon coeur que tout ceci deviendra une magnifique réalité. ❤

mady | Friday 01 April 2016

Je suis très heureuse pour cette orque qui avait tant souffert déjà. Il faut continuer à libérer tous ces merveilleux poissons qui sont exhibés dans de minuscules bassins. C'est odieux... C'est criminel...

Chris Flam | Friday 01 April 2016

On pense à toi Lolita, tu as droit à la LIBERTE...