Celebrities Unite to Free Whale from Years of Solitary Confinement

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Celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Hayden Panettiere, 50 Cent, Raul Julia-Levy call for the release of Lolita from a Miami Seaquarium by joining forces with the Orca Network. The exploitation of Lolita has continued for over 30 years as she lives in solitary confinement at the seaquarium. The celebrities are giving a voice to Lolita's plight.

Celebrities from all facets of the entertainment industry pool together to fight for the release of a captive L pod orca whale named Lolita.

According to the Orca Network, actors, producers, singers and philanthropists have volunteered as spokespersons for the campaign to release of Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium to her native habitat in the Pacific Northwest after 37 years of captivity.

The list of celebrities and philanthropists for Lolita includes Johnny Depp, Hayden Panettiere, Lindsay Lohan, 50 Cent, Jean Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia-Levy, Bokeem Woodbine, Harrison Ford, Robert Downey Jr., Jonathan Silverman, Jennifer Finnigan, Billy Zane, Bob Barker, Francesco Quinn, Gladys Portugal, Joan Fontaine, Mekhi Phifer, Mike Amato, Sticky Fingaz, The Game and Truth Hurts. Prominent producers who support Lolita's release are Ed Elbert and Jonathan Sanger, along with director Isaac Florentine.

Leading the campaign to free Lolita is the co-founder and president of the Orca Network Howard Garrett and philanthropist Raul Julia-Levy. Garrett has drafted a proposal for the safe retirement of the captive orca whale and has submitted it to the Miami Seaquarium where Lolita currently lives in a confined man-made pool that is not as deep as her body's length.

When Julia-Levy heard of Lolita's plight, he contacted Garrett to lend his support by rallying the celebrities for her release.

"Lolita's already made her captives millions of dollars. How much is enough? Greediness has its limits and it is time Lolita goes back to her family," said Julia-Levy. "We need to make Lolita's voice heard," Julia-Levy pleaded.

Executive director and research biologist for the Center for Whale Research Kenneth Balcomb III mirrored Julia-Levy's sentiments. Balcomb III said, "Lolita deserves to retire in her home waters. She's made millions for the marine park. It's past time she had a chance to retire and enjoy the rest of her life."

In a letter to supporters of Lolita's release, Garrett explains Lolita's history and describes the distinct culture and complex languages of orca whales. The letter also addresses the fact that although Lolita has lived in captivity for 30 years, she will be able to recognize her family and will remember her lifelong membership as a Southern Resident orca.

Bokeem Woodbine, known for his role as Fathead Newman in the major motion picture Ray, understands the parallels between orca whales and humans. He believes that no animal of that size should be held captive for so long just to entertain people.

"No one has the right to kidnap these animals. Imagine if one of your sons gets kidnapped to entertain people in another country. In my world that's a high crime," said Woodbine.

Evidence gathered through the intensive study of killer whales shows that these mammals are family-oriented creatures who maintain family bonds and patterns that have been established from generation to generation. In 1995, Lolita made national television when Dateline NBC played a recording of Lolita's family to her. Based on her reaction, Lolita recognized her family's distinct call.

Along with the celebrities, a handful of politicians support Lolita's speedy release. U.S. Senators supporting her release include Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. U.S. Representatives include Rick Larson, Norm Dicks, Jim McDermott, Adam Smith and Linda Smith. The Island County and San Juan County Board of Commissioners and King County (Seattle) Executive Ron Sims also want Lolita released.

Martial arts extraordinaire Jean Claude Van Damme called for more help from the government. He said, "We live in the most powerful country in the world. It's time to urge Congress to create laws to protect and ensure the freedom of the whales. We must let this animal go free."

In the draft proposal for retiring Lolita, Garrett details the procedures for her release and dispels many objections held by representatives of the Miami Seaquarium and other individuals. For example, a feeding and care station will be provided should Lolita need man's help for a smooth transition.

"Lolita can go home without any risk to her. We cannot guarantee that she will successfully rejoin her family," said Garrett, "However, the best place for her is her native home."

With the support of prominent actors, producers and philanthropists, Garrett wishes to create more awareness of Lolita's dire circumstances among the general public. He said, "The celebrities can help us (Orca Network) make the point that Lolita's in a terrible situation. She's isolated and alone. Yet we can bring her home."

Actors Jonathon Silverman and his wife Jennifer Finnigan are also calling for Lolita's release and want to create more awareness of her situation.

Silverman said, "This cause for Lolita deserves immediate attention. We can also ask the authorities to prevent this from occurring in the future. The release of Lolita will help establish awareness in Congress."

Garrett attributes Lolita's longevity in captivity to the fact that she does remember her family. Sadly, other members of her family captured at the same time as Lolita have died in captivity. Celebrities, philanthropists, politicians and many members of the general public do not want the same fate for Lolita.

To join the list to free Lolita, individuals may visit Orca Network where a complete list of the high-profile supporters for Lolita's release and Garrett's documents in their entirety can be found.

The address and phone number for Orca Network is:
2403 North Bluff Road
Greenbank, Washington 98253

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Howard Garrett