Written by Jeff Mackey
Update 2: Fulfilling
their part of the settlement agreement that was reached following the filing of
the lawsuit described below, PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund have
submitted their petition to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) asking
for Lolita to be included in the Endangered Species Act listing of the Southern
To uphold its end of the agreement, NMFS must reconsider Lolita's
endangered status and include her in the listing or provide a legally
permissible reason why it won't—as the service failed to do when it listed the
Southern Residents. An endangered listing for Lolita would prohibit the Miami
Seaquarium from harming and harassing her by forcing her to perform in an
unlawfully small tank and could ultimately lead to her rejoining her
85-year-old mother and the rest of her pod.
Update: We have a promising development to report. Following the filing of our lawsuit, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has agreed to reconsider its exclusion of Lolita from the Endangered Species Act listing of the Southern Resident orcas—the family from which she was taken more than 40 years ago.
Under this agreement, PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund will submit a new petition asking for Lolita to be included in the listing, and NMFS must make a decision based solely on the biological status of the orcas—whether the population is threatened or endangered—within the legally required time frame. The time has come for the government to give Lolita the same protection offered to her family in the wild and reunite her with her pod, whose calls she recognized when they were played to her even after decades in captivity!
Originally posted August 23:
PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and other plaintiffs in
a lawsuit challenging the illegal exclusion of Lolita—an orca captured as a calf in 1970 who has since been held captive and forced to
perform at the Miami Seaquarium—from protection under the Endangered Species
Act (ESA) are appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
following a lower-court dismissal earlier this month.
jc.winkler|cc by 2.0Orcas are members of the dolphin family. They are also the largest
animals held in captivity. In the wild, orcas stay with their mothers
Without explanation, the National Marine Fisheries Service
(NMFS) excluded Lolita when it classified the southern resident orca population
as endangered, giving it protection from being harmed or harassed under the
ESA. Lolita has been without an orca companion since 1980 and lives in a much too
small tank that doesn't even meet minimal federal standards.
Both the federal government and the Seaquarium filed motions
to dismiss the suit brought against NMFS for excluding Lolita from the
endangered listing, and the lower-court judge ruled in their favor on technical grounds—despite the fact that all necessary procedures were carefully followed—without reaching
the merits of the case. But Lolita deserves her day in court, and PETA won't
rest until she's released into a seaside sanctuary in her home waters.
a polite e-mail to Eric C. Schwaab, NMFS assistant administrator for fisheries, urging the
agency to protect Lolita under the ESA. (Plus, of course, never ever buy a ticket to a marine park, an aquarium, or any other captive-animal
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