World's Loneliest Orca Is So Sick She Can Barely Even See
Lolita is pumped full of drugs every single day so she can stay in her tiny tank.
Newly released court testimony, which had been confidential until now, reveals that she isn't just the world's loneliest orca - she's also one of the world's sickest.
The list of Lolita's mental and physical health problems is extensive. Here's just a little of what experts, who visited Lolita to observe her living conditions, had to say about Lolita's health:
"[Lolita] has been diagnosed with a pterygium, also called 'surfer's eye.' This is caused by excessive exposure to UV radiation [and] leads to discomfort ... and can cause a significant alteration in visual function," Dr. Pedro Javier Gallego Reyes, veterinarian and cofounder of marine biology association Odyssea wrote, citing the lack of shade in Lolita's tiny pool as a contributing factor.
Essentially, Lolita cannot escape the sunlight, so she's getting to the point that she can't even see.
Reyes also said that Lolita appears to be a "chronically ill patient with frequently recurring infections and mildly impaired kidney function ... This frequent medication can have, and may have already had, negative impacts on her liver and kidneys."
Another expert agreed. "Lolita appeared to be under a constant stream of medications, spanning from eye drops to antibiotics and heavy painkillers," Maddelena Bearzi, president of Ocean Conservation Society, wrote. "In 2015 alone, there was not a day during the course of the year that she wasn't under one or more medications ... Killer whales in the wild do not need human-made medications and their life span is longer than that of their captive counterparts."
Lolita's mental health doesn't appear much better than her physical health. According to former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove, "The animal behavior records reveal that Lolita has a poorer behavior rating than any orca I have worked with in my career."
Lolita showed signs of stress and frustrated and bored behavior, like head-bobbing and jaw-popping, which has damaged Lolita's teeth (they're permanently damaged and have been drilled more than a dozen times to stave off infection). Poor behavior puts everyone at risk, according to Hargrove. "The significance of this is that when an animal, especially an orca, is failing that much, they become very frustrated and aggression becomes highly probable," he wrote.
Lolita's tank is so small, Ingrid Visser, orca expert with the Orca Research Trust, observed, that she appeared to stand on her tail on the floor of her tank to raise her head, "using the tank floor, in the same way a person could 'handstand' and raise their legs up and down. Such 'tail-standing' has not been reported in the literature for a wild orca," Visser wrote.
Lolita also shares her tank with dolphins who consistently "rake" her, scraping her skin with their teeth.
According to PETA, the plaintiff of a lawsuit against the Miami Seaquarium for Lolita's treatment, the Seaquarium has been hiding evidence of Lolita's clear physical and mental suffering. "PETA is doing all that it can to end her suffering and get her to a seaside sanctuary," Tracy Reiman, PETA executive vice president, said in press release provided to The Dodo, "where she could finally feel ocean currents, swim freely, and hear wild orcas' calls."
The Miami Seaquarium did not immediately reply to The Dodo's request for comment.