Exklusively for zoos.media – published on the 16th of April 2023. Author: Philipp J. Kroiss
Should Lolita, also called Tokitae or Toki, be “released” or not? Apparently, the Miami Seaquarium and the project’s financier, James Irsay, owner of Indianapolis Colts, don’t have the same goals for the orca lady after all.
Lolita: Disagreement between Miami Seaquarium and Indianapolis Colts
Little remains of the demonstrative unity between parts of the animal rights industry and the Miami Seaquarium at the devastating press conference. When the plan to put Lolita in a net cage, which was heavily criticized by experts, was presented, the Dolphin Company, the new owner of the Miami Seaquarium, seemed to agree with the activists and the provided financier. Collectively, the life-threatening dangers of flying a geriatric animal to where one of the most pollution-poisoned marine mammal populations live have been ignored. Such unity seems to be fading more and more. How much of that is left anyway? This article looks at the current discord.
Will Lolita swim in the ocean?
The bone of contention is a post by James Irsay.
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) April 15, 2023
He outlines the plan, which can also be found again and again in the media. It contains the fantasy that the old orca grandma could simply be placed in a net cage, There, the massive deterioration in water quality caused by the pollution there wouldn’t bother her at all. Likewise, they seem to think that one could teach her to feed independently, which has never worked before with an orca that has been in human care for so long. Furthermore, they indulge in the questionable imagination that if one just opens the doors of the cage, she’s swimming with an orca, who – as far as we know – isn’t her mother, and pretends to be a happy family.
Miami Seaquarium doesn’t even consider it
The problem is that Miami Seaquarium never planned it that way. Therefore, Eduardo Albor, CEO of Dolphin Company, responds to the tweet with very clear words:
…. And we are not considering in the plan let Lolita go open ocean as this could be extremely risk for her and all other killer whales out there. We will maje sure Mr. Irsay, who has shown great interest for the best of Lolita, is properly informed of the Plan still not ready.
— Eduardo Albor (@eduardoalbor) April 16, 2023
In another thread, which is also a response to the tweet, Albor continues and speaks of a risk for Lolita and the other killer whales on site. This is mainly because, while Lolita is from the population, both parties have evolved independently over many decades. So Lolita’s immune system is not adapted to environmental pollution. She is used to filtered, healthy water. In addition, she is old and ill, which is not at all unusual for Methuselahs like her. The question is also whether the diseases are possibly transmissible. Therefore, there is a risk that cannot be ignored.
Miami Seaquariums wants communications sovereignty
Albor stresses that the only official information would have to come from the Miami Seaquarium itself. One can get the impression that he is no longer the master of his own house. The unity shown at the press conference doesn’t even seem to exist if they don’t even agree on what they ultimately want to do with the animal. The only thing that seems to remain in common from the joint plan is that she should come into the net cage. That’s not much common ground. It is doubtful whether that is enough for such a large project.
There is also the question of what to propose to the authorities. So far, no part of this plan, which has been diligently marketed by the media, has been approved at all. Conversely, can the proposal that the Miami Seaquarium has to formulate be trusted at all? Once the animal rights industry gets hold of Lolita, the Miami Seaquarium has little leverage. Then communication sovereignty will no longer bring anything. Already in the failed project to “free” Keiko, against the advice of paid experts like Mark Simmons, the animal rights activists made their own decisions that ultimately led to the death of the animal.
Disaster for Dolphin Company
The plan, which the Dolphin Company supposedly wanted to fish for compliments while eliminating the high cost for itself, is slowly turning into an absolute disaster. Former and current trainers, veterinarians, and caretakers have come together first under #truth4toki, then in a Facebook group, and finally in a multi-platform project with fans and other friends of Lolita, who is also called Toki, and are causing a stir. Both on social media and in traditional media. Well-known experts like Dr. Gray Stafford, Dr. Jason Bruck, and other important voices supported the project on the basis of their globally recognized expertise.
In addition, there are now these public disagreements and allegations of poor care for the dolphins based on a report from an official inspection. It’s almost impossible to tell that the Dolphin Company is on course towards an iceberg – the ship has already rammed into the iceberg and now it’s more a matter of dealing with the lifeboats for the passengers. Since the takeover of the Miami Seaquarium, the company has been exposed to partly justified and partly unjustified criticism in the USA.
Lolita living in this installation, which is a good retirement home for her but not a modern complex, is not a fault of the Dolphin Company, nor of the previous owner. An attempt was made to build more modern installations, but it was not approved. This is also due to the fact that politicians always want to have their say in projects like that. Attempts to improve their husbandry failed not because of the will of the previous owner, but because of the will of politicians, who have been massively influenced by the animal rights industry, not to grant the necessary permits.
Error awareness at the Dolphin Company?
By fraternizing with the animal rights industry to put Lolita in the net cage, Miami Seaquarium has turned the proverbial buck into a gardener. Is it slowly dawning on the company who it really got involved with? Opportunism towards the animal rights industry is a huge problem in the US, including in the zoo world. This follows the misconception that if you make a few concessions, you can make an ally out of the animal rights industry.
So this process is a lesson in why exactly that doesn’t work. The Dolphin Company has made the concession – certainly not altruistically because Lolita is a heavy burden on the cash register and you can get rid of her that way – to put her in the net cage husbandry of the activists. Now, the activists want to go further and once their foot is in the door, it’s hard to close it.
Therefore, Albor could now become aware of this error. However, he still seems to want to convince people that it is just a matter of a misunderstanding. It is not clear whether this is the case. Rather, the posting seems as if Irsay is very sure about this. It remains to be seen how many such misunderstandings there will be until – hopefully in time – the ripcord for this deadly project is pulled.