Skip to content

Ocean Sun’s story

By Nonhuman Rights

Lolita’s mother’s voice

I’ll never forget the day they took her from me, from us. Like all my children, she was meant to be with me for the duration of my life. Instead, she was with me for only a few years.

In the beginning we lived freely together. She swam with me and all the members of our pod, spending her days playing, learning, exploring, and communicating in our unique dialect–in other words, doing all she was born to do. I’d already lost my first baby so I was deeply comforted by her cheerful presence among us. 

The day everything changed, we’d gathered with two other pods in what’s meant to be a joyful reunion for our species. This time, though, the hunters were waiting. They trapped us in a cove, all eighty of us. I tried to save her, to save every one of our children. We all did. But it wasn’t enough. 

They pushed us apart, strung nets between us. Our children called out to us in panic. The adults were set free, but our children were still trapped, so we kept calling out to them, trying to reassure them. I saw them lift my daughter from the water. She was crying. I came as close as I could, hoping she could hear my voice amid the violence and the chaos. I never saw her again.

In the many years that have passed, I’ve experienced other losses, but this loss haunts me the most. That’s why I’ll never stop calling to her, never stop thinking of the freedom and joy that should have been hers–and the lifetime together that should have been ours. Wherever she is, I hope she’s been able to find peace. 

The free-living, 95-year-old orca Ocean Sun is believed to be the mother of Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut, also known as Lolita and Tokitae, who was captured in Penn Cove off the coast of Washington State in 1970. Despite tireless efforts by activists to free her, Lolita died in captivity in the Miami Seaquarium in 2023.

We lament that she passed away still a prisoner, never again knowing the open ocean or the joys of being with her pod, and we know the story of her life will help bring an end to the terrible injustice that is marine mammal captivity. With your support, we plan to file our first lawsuit demanding a marine mammal’s right to liberty within the next year. Donate today to help fund it. This week only, all donations to the NhRP are being matched up to $25,000.

Thank you for reading Ocean Sun’s story. 

Sign up to receive the latest updates on our mission

Find out about opportunities to get involved, breaking news in our cases and campaigns, and more.