ORCA CONSERVANCY is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1996 as the Tokitae Foundation, calling for the retirement of Tokitae, also known as Lolita, a Southern Resident orca captured in Puget Sound, Washington in August 1970 and now living alone in Miami Seaquarium, the smallest killer whale tank in the United States. In 2000 the group changed its name to Orca Conservancy, broadening its mission to do everything possible to help Lolita’s family back in the Sound, to ensure healthy fish runs, to clean up toxic sites, to encourage responsible whale watching, and to prevent an oil spill that in one fell swoop could wipe them out. And if they ever got into trouble, Orca Conservancy resolved to move fast to marshall the public, financial and political support needed to get them out of harm’s way and right back to being wild whales again. To keep them from going into a tank in the first place.
Under the leadership of Seattle-based television producer and filmmaker Michael Harris and fellow Board Members Fred Fellman, MSc., artist and orca researcher Kelley Balcomb-Bartok, five-term Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro, former Friday Harbor Port Commissioner Brian Calvert, and Friends of the San Juans Executive Director Stephanie Buffum, Orca Conservancy took part and often the lead in an impressive series of campaigns on behalf of whales. The group fulfilled its new mission immediately, being the first on the scene and then part of the operations team leading a highly publicized, successful rescue of a seal-hunting orca stranded on Dungeness Spit, Washington in December 2001. Orca Conservancy became a Petitioner and successful litigant in the historic U.S. District Court victory that won the Puget Sound’s Southern Resident orcas their first-ever federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Orca Conservancy was a central player and prolific media advocate for the orphaned orca A73, or Springer, the first-ever successful rescue and repatriation of a wild killer whale.
The group has been involved in other successful campaigns, and some that were not. Orca Conservancy led a similar effort to rescue and repatriate the wayward young orca L98, or Luna, a Southern Resident alone in Nootka Sound, BC, working the project literally to the 11th hour, only to see it fall apart because of the spectacular failings of a few federal bureaucrats, a clutch of activist hens and one marine circus clown (see “THE LUNA FILE”). Luna would spend the next year or so of his life hounded by a couple of commercial filmmakers, until the intensively habituated orca nuzzled up to cameras of a crew on a seagoing tug and got sucked into the propeller tube and killed. The tragic and avoidable death of this extraordinary creature proved to be a wake-up call for the organization, a realization that sometimes the worst thing that can happen to a whale are some of the people who say they’re saving them. There needs to be a better way to do this.
We don’t pay ourselves anything, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook! You canhelp artists help whales by checking out our online consignment store OrcaShop, or contribute a few bucks to ORCA TRUST, our “go-through” fund sending much-needed support directly to orca researchers in the field. Your donation isn’t going to pay for computer campsters, newsletters and bumper stickers; it’s actually helping scientists save whales. It’s a killer way to show you care.
Artists Helping Orcas! Online Consignment Shop
ORCA TRUST /
Donate Directly to Orca Researchers in the Field
See on www.orcaconservancy.org