Trio takes up fight to free captive orca

By Paul Archipley | Sep 26, 2013
Photo by: Paul Archipley Anjelica Ehnkee, left center, and Keely Clark, right center, pass out fliers and discuss their efforts to free Lolita, a captive orca that was captured in the Puget Sound in 1970. Listening are passersby Sarah McArthur, left, and Steve Selyer, right.

Given a choice between a potentially shorter life with freedom and a longer life in captivity, which would you choose?

Three activists in Edmonds, along with others nationwide, believe a captive orca would prefer to be free – and, perhaps, would actually enjoy a longer life if it was.

Lolita, the last survivor of 44 orcas from her family that were captured in the Puget Sound and shipped worldwide back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, lives out her days in a small pool at a Miami, Fla., aquarium.

Supporters of the Orca Network have been working for 14 years to convince the aquarium operators that Lolita should be returned to the home she knew for the first four or more years of her life.

Dawn Clark, her daughter Keely and their friend Anjelica Ehnkee have joined the cause, hosting a Charity Awareness Event at the Edmonds Theater this Sunday, Sept. 29, to build support for efforts to free Lolita.

Taking place at 7 p.m., the free event will include the documentary “Lolita, Slave to Entertainment” followed by desserts supplied by the Red Petal Coffee House and the Rusty Pelican Café.

They emphasize the event is not a fundraiser, but rather an attempt to convince others in the community to join them in lobbying Gov. Jay Inslee, Sen. Maria Cantwell, and others who could sway Lolita’s captors to set her free.

Despite arguments by Lolita’s captors that she couldn’t survive in the wild after such a long period in captivity, marine biologists and other scientists believe she could re-adapt to the orca culture she knew in her formative years.

In fact, she still vocalizes in the unique calls that are used only by her family, known as the L pod, that lives off of Whidbey Island.

“Scientists believe she would be successful outside because she lived her first four or more years in the wild,” Dawn Clark said. “We’re trying to rally people to her cause.”

Keely Clark and Angelica Ehnkee became interested in Lolita’s plight while taking a marine biology class at Edmonds-Woodway last year.

Ehnkee said the teacher helped her gain a volunteer position at the Seattle Aquarium, further piquing her interest. “It really bloomed there,” she said.

On Monday, the trio was in downtown Edmonds, passing out fliers and urging passersby to attend Sunday’s screening.

“I hope to get more people involved,” Keely Clark said, “to convince them that there really is a chance to get her out.”

They acknowledge it’s no easy task.

“They’ve been trying to help her since 1999,” Dawn Clark said. “And I have felt discouraged.

“But I felt in my heart that we should at least try.”

To learn more, attend Sunday’s event. There is also more information about Lolita at www.orcanetwork.org.

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