Make a Splash: Free Lolita!
Meet Lolita: an intelligent and sensitive orca confined to the smallest orca tank in North America. Captivity means daily misery for Lolita, but big bucks for the Miami Seaquarium. And, even though her shameful living conditions violate both the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act the USDA continues to hand out AWA licenses to the Seaquarium.
- For an overview of our work to free Lolita, check out our timeline.
Fighting to Free Lolita
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is working hard to give Lolita the justice she deserves, including protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Animal Legal Defense Fund (along with PETA) sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to end the exclusion of Lolita from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of the Pacific Northwest’s Southern Resident orcas. NMFS found the joint petition had merit and announced a final rule to include Lolita under the ESA in 2015. With Lolita’s endangered status secured, ALDF, PETA, and the Orca Network filed another lawsuit arguing that her captivity violates the Endangered Species Act. A judge recently dismissed the lawsuit, but we are evaluating our options for appeal. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, alongside PETA and Orca Network, is also suing the USDA for issuing an exhibitor’s license to Miami Seaquarium’s new owner. The courts must intervene to protect Lolita where the federal agencies have repeatedly failed her.
Let Lolita Go Home
Lolita was one of seven orcas kidnapped in the notorious 1970 Penn Cove round up in Puget Sound, Washington. In this horrific event, when four orcas (three calves) drowned in the nets, their bellies were slit in an attempt by human captors to sink the bodies – perhaps to hide this shameful waste of life. However, the bodies of the dead orcas washed ashore and lead to righteous public outrage. You can hear the cries of Lolita and her family in the devastating video footage of her family’s capture.
In the wild, orcas spend their entire lives with their mothers. In 1996 (26 years after her capture), Lolita was played a recording of her family’s calls. Heartbreakingly, Lolita returned the distinct dialect of her family’s calls, recognizing familiar voices. And at more than 80 years old, Lolita’s mother (one of the endangered southern resident orcas off the coast of Washington) still thrives in a seaside sanctuary, waiting for Lolita to come home. Instead, Lolita swims tiny circles in a shallow and barren cement tank that doesn’t meet the minimum requirements of the Animal Welfare Act. Constantly exposed to the burning Miami sun and tropical storms, Lolita has been without any orca companion for three decades.
Alone in Her Tiny Tank
Lolita once had the company of Hugo, a male orca who shared her tank from 1971 until 1980. In her stressful environment Lolita suffered many unsuccessful pregnancies. In 1980, in what was possibly a desperate attempt to break free from his miserable prison or commit suicide, Hugo continuously rammed his head into the side of the tank and died of a brain aneurysm. Hugo’s sudden death left Lolita moping at the bottom of her tank in a state “not unlike bereavement.” Lolita has not had a killer whale companion since.
As a reward for her extraordinary will to live, Lolita has been exploited for 45 years. She was abducted from her family and enslaved purely for the profit of the “amusement” park. Despite inhumane living conditions, Lolita endures – and her spirit has touched the hearts of people around the world. Given the low quality of her life at the Miami Seaquarium, she will likely die decades before her time, unless we act now, as we did for Keiko (“Willy”). It is time for us to set Lolita free.
What You Can Do to Help
- Contact the USDA and ask them to follow the law provided in the Animal Welfare Act.
- Educate yourself and your friends, and spread the word through social media.
- Do not buy a ticket to any amusement park, especially the Miami Seaquarium.
- Do not support companies like Princess Cruises (a division of Carnival Cruises) that endorse animal cruelty at the Seaquarium.