VIRGINIA KEY, FLA. (WSVN) - Passionate protests took over Virginia Key on Sunday, as dozens of Native Americans from Washington state joined other activists as they voiced their anger and outrage over the captivity of Lolita the killer whale.
Rain or shine, the group of protesters, which included members from the Lummi Nation, spent part of their long Memorial Day weekend calling for the marine mammal’s release from the Miami Seaquarium. They traveled to South Florida with a specially made totem pole as they made their plea.
“Lolita’s family. She got taken away; we’re trying to get her back,” said a demonstrator.
The protesters said it’s time for the orca who has called the Seaquarium home for more than 47 years to return home to the Pacific Northwest.
“That’s a showgirl. It’s not Lolita, it’s Tokitae,” said a woman as she spoke into a loudspeaker.
The Seaquarium answered the calls for the whale’s release by asking for cooperation in a video message.
Robert Rose, the Seaquarium’s curator emeritus, addressed protesters in the video clip. “What we need to do is come together as a group to really help save the endangered Southern resident killer whale population before its too late,” he said.
Rose said he’s worked with Lolita, a Southern resident killer whale, for more than 23 years. He indicated her age, the length of time she’s been at the Seaquarium and the risk for disease are three compelling reasons why it’s safer for her at the Seaquarium.
The curator did not mince words when discussing what he sees as the protesters’ motives. “The real frustrating thing for me with the Lummi, specifically, is they don’t care about her. They don’t care whether she lives or dies,” he said. “They have gone as far as to say as if she’s better off dead. I mean, really? ‘Better off dead?’ Shame on them.”
Isabella Cordero, one of the younger participants at Sunday’s protest, said Lolita needs to be released. “I think that anybody at any age, old or young, can help with this cause, because everybody believes what they want, and we believe that Lolita should be free,” she said.
Could a release happen after decades of captivity? Howard Garrett of the Orca Network said he believes momentum is their side.
“I think we have taken it to a whole new level today, with this demonstration, this last couple of days,” he said.
Members of the Lummi Nation visited eight cities from the West Coast before arriving in Miami.
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