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Victory! Decision Brings Lolita One Step Closer to Her Ocean Home

Written by Jennifer O'Connor | January 24, 2014

Today, a decision made by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) opened the door to the eventual release of Lolita—a wild-caught orca who has been held in solitary confinement in a cramped tank at the Miami Seaquarium for decades—back to her ocean home. You may have seen footage of her heartbreaking capture in the documentary film Blackfish.

1971 Orca capture off the coast of Washington State (Lolita and Family)©Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.

The ruling comes two years after PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and four individuals sued the NMFS over Lolita’s exclusion from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA protects members of the wild Southern Resident orca population, who are considered endangered, from being harmed or harassed. Yet despite being a Southern Resident orca, Lolita has been denied these protections without any explanation or lawful justification by the NMFS.

1971 Orca capture off the coast of Washington State (Lolita and Family)©Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.

In 2012, a settlement was reached in which the NMFS agreed to reconsider Lolita’s exclusion from the ESA pursuant to our petition, and a status review got underway.

Today, the NMFS agreed with PETA that listing Lolita as an endangered Southern Resident orca is warranted, and thus she’s legally entitled to the same protections as her wild family. The decision opens the door for her eventual release from the Miami Seaquarium.

1971 Orca capture off the coast of Washington State (Lolita and Family)© Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.

Lolita was just a baby when she was torn away from her mother and family and imprisoned in a minuscule tank barely larger than her own body. For more than 40 years, she has had a poor quality of life. Swimming in endless circles, denied the companionship of other orcas, and forced to perform silly tricks, Lolita needs to spend her senior years in a coastal sanctuary in her home waters in Puget Sound, which would allow her greater freedom of movement and the opportunity to see, sense, and communicate with her mother, wild cousins, and other ocean animals and to feel the tides and waves—all the things that she’s been denied for far too long.

1971 Orca capture off the coast of Washington State (Lolita)Orca Image: © Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.

What You Can Do

Please express your support for Lolita by submitting a comment here by March 28. Let the government know that you support its decision to include Lolita in her family’s ESA listing, that the current conditions in which she is held – in a tiny barren tank with no companions of her own species and no protection from the sun – cause her to suffer, and that you want to see her transferred to a seaside sanctuary in her home waters under expert care.

Commenting is closed.
  • Susan Crandall says:

    Lolita was born in 1968 into a group of Orcas who are listed as endangered. Cruelly trapped and held captive in terrible conditions, please help her be free by listing her endangered as she is!

  • amanda says:

    Lolita deserves her freedom – as do all animals! Well done PETA.

  • Theresa says:

    Let this beautiful creature roam free. No life deserves this sort of torment.

  • Angelique Neumann says:

    I saw Lolita when I I was eleven years old and even then her deplorable conditions horrified me. The truth is, she is a captive endangered mammal forced to perform and her treatment does not reflect her fragility or sentience.

  • Knowles says:

    It being in solitary confinement is reason alone to retire it to a sanctuary with eventual release. It would be the homecoming the century

  • Sarah says:

    Stop this craziness these creature are as smart or smarter then us!!! Get them out of these tanks !! Seeing them in the wild is a much better experience!!! LETS THEM ALL GO (IHATESEAWORLD) killers

  • Zaan de Swardt says:

    ALL Orca’s should be free!!!I finally watched blackfish. And my heart was broken through out the entire film. Animals are not ours to take. Imagine if the roles were reversed?

  • I am a Canadian who has traveled extensively throughout Florida but have yet to visit Miami, which was on my list of locations I would like to visit. I am sickened to know that poor Lolita lives in the smallest tank in the US and has a family waiting for her. I cannot in good conscience visit Florida again, especially Miami until Lolita has been sent to a sea sanctuary. It is time to let her retire, let her go!!!!

  • Carolyn Emole says:

    Lolita, like all captive orcas and dolphins need to be released. These are wild animals that were kidnapped purely for our entertainment. Please, please let her go home.

  • Stephanie says:

    Free Lolita!!

  • Erika vG says:

    Free Lolita!

  • Marytierra Ramirez says:

    Disgusting. Immoral. Cruel. Abuse. Inhumane. Heartbreaking. Keiko’s tank in Mexico was bigger than this! She deserves a nice cove where she can live out her years doing what she does best: Living as a highly intelligent, emotional, powerful and beautiful predator. One day, she may just see her family again and she can swim off to be with them for eternity. Free Lolita!!

  • mela bird says:

    Please get her out and into a sea pen and eventually reunited with her family

  • Evelyn Fernandez says:

    The Miami Seaquarium is owned by despicable people that have no care or concern for the well being of marine animals. They are only in one business and that is to make money. Lolita deserves her freedom!! She has suffered long enough. Thank you PETA for fighting so hard for her quality of life.

  • FREE LOLITA. say no to animal cruelty

  • Sophia says:

    I have not since I was a child and will never again visit any sea park. Its disgusting to me that these wild animals are taken from their natural endless ocean habitat and placed in this type of captivity. I cant believe with all the knowledge we have about these species intelligence, natural habitat and what happens to them after periods of captivity this is even an issue. When these animals attack and kill its not their fault. Its out of frustration and its beyond sickening. Specifically there is no record of killer whales harming humans in the wild, yet so many have in captivity.

  • Janice Alexander says:

    Forty years???? This dear creature needs to be afforded a quality of life that all sentient beings deserve. Let her go!!

  • sharon chang says:

    let this poor creature and others like her go free!

  • Kristen says:

    So proud to be apart of such an amazing organization! Go peta!!!

  • carol frayne says:

    Yes, happy another Orca goes free…..wouldn’t it be a better world if they were all free and these barbaric catches and solitary confinement of these beautiful creatures was ended!

  • Helen Dean says:

    Free this poor animal, it deserves it after all it’s been through.

  • Yael says:

    Lolita is a victim of mistreatment. She has suffered at the hands of others from a young age and it is deeply disturbing that it took decades for her situation to be given the proper attention. Congratulations to those who fought on her behalf, it is a true triumph and I hope to hear of her salvation in the near future.

  • Clair says:

    Can you imagine being taken away from your family as a baby and trapped in confinement for the rest of your life? Let Lolita be where she belongs, in the ocean. FREE LOLITA

  • sarah says:

    Lolita deserves freedom! The seaside sanitary is where Lolita belongs.

  • Solange says:

    Free Lolita!

  • anne dominguez says:

    I am so happy for lolita. Breaks my heart to see what we do to animals. I dream of the day that all animals can live free of pain, suffering and captivity by the hands of humans.

  • Amy Kraft says:

    I want to see Lolita transferred to a seaside sanctuary in her home waters under expert care.

  • Ashie says:

    So happy for Lolita!! I am glad to see that Lolita wont have to suffer anymore and she will live a natural happy life with her family …..

  • Lolita needs to experience life as whale in the ocean with her family and not continue being confined to a tank where she suffers isolation and confinement.

  • Bridge-O says:

    Let Lolita GO be free and happy and live the rest of her life at HOME!

  • ChuckWood says:

    Free Lolita from captivity! It’s the least she deserves…

  • Kathrin Lesch says:

    Stop cruelty. Lolita belongs to her world and family, not ours.

  • Jennifer says:

    FREE LOLITA! She’s served her time for doing nothing more than being a majestic animal that man wanted, give her back to nature.

  • Caroline Tom says:

    Free Lolita! I support your decision

  • charlotte says:

    It’s only moral to set Lolita free…she deserves a good quality of life…

  • cynthia england says:

    Let’sput the Seaquariam,and JSea World out of business.We human animals don’t njeed entertainment at the expense of other intelligent living animals..

  • Madeleine Doran says:

    It is incomprehensible that this beautiful, sensitive, wild animal has been a slave for 40 years. Let us hope that it can live its last years in freedom and kinship with its own species.
    The time has come for compassion to all living beings and for people to embrace the fact that animals are not ours to enslave for entertainment or for any reason. Thanks to PETA and ALDF for making this happen!

  • Sarah Severn says:

    I live up in the San Juan islands and am privileged to see these highly intelligent, social Orca in their natural habitat. It is crucial that we have informed public commentary on the NOAA site, and that means Peta must provide us with all the science and logic for us to make our case. As emotional as her imprisonment makes me, i know that bringing that emotion into arguments for her release, or vilifying her captors, will not be a successful strategy.
    Looking forward to advice from Peta and other well organized groups who care deeply about this issue

  • Miami Resident says:

    The Miami Seaquarium is evil, can’t wait to see her released!!

  • Lynn Greenhut says:

    The idea of “entertainment” ends when hearts are broken. And, I’m not just talking here of the poor Orca’s heart and her family’s hearts, I’m talking about the millions of people who know what you do, you are breaking our hearts too. The only folks entertained by this are mindless, uncompassionate, uneducated people. You exploit them too by your lies. This is a business, and the truth is out about how you began your business and how you continue it. A good business creates a response to human needs. A greedy business uses something that never belonged to them like those who capture and skin animals for fur or leather, imprison animals in laboratories and perform horrific experiments on them and zoos and circuses who capture animals and charge people to see them. If you were a good business you might have tours out to where the orcas live and educate people about their needs, not yours. We need to share this earth and many need to be educated as to who they share the earth with and how we all can play a good part in sharing.

    • anne dominguez says:

      Lynn, there is only very few humans like you. Its a pleasure to be able to tell you this, a kind and compassionate person like yourself is very much so needed on this planet. Thank you.

  • Victoria Gillam says:

    The only moral thing to do is to set Lolita free so she can spend her remaining years with her family. She has suffered forty years being in captivity and the public want her set free.

  • Fiona Cowley says:

    I have already congratulated you on your wonderful achievements to date. Looking at how the comments from a petition are analysed recently, I am under the impression that we all need to be briefed as to how to write our comments so they are used to the maximum benefit and not tho the detriment of this incredible cause. All the very best – This has to work!

  • This has to end! 40 years of solitude… Please show some humanity and set this whale free.

  • Tracy says:

    This is wonderful news. I do hope that she gets her freedom. Much appreciation and special congratulations to all the individuals responsible!

  • Tracie H says:

    It is an outrage that it has taken more than forty years to release Lolita (baby caught orca) especially when she has been in a space not suitable for her and who knows what other horrific situations she has endured behind closed doors. She needs to be set free.

  • nick sanders says:

    orca’s in the live in there intended eco system,yeah!!

  • Fiona Cowley says:

    Congratulations on your wonderful achievement with the plight of Lolita. I realise it is not a fait acomplis as yet , but so many people have tried. Fabulous news! PETA worldwide seems to be making in roads where few others have to date Congratulations!

  • Justice for Lolita (Tokitae) will prevail. More than ever, she needs our help to protect her. We must continue to be vigilant. I am re-discovering joy. Thank you, PETA!

  • Emma Russell says:

    Wonderful news. I hope so much this lovely creature gets a little of the free life she so deserves

  • Finally! So glad you were all able to use the judicial system and make it work in her favor.

    • gloria sapp says:

      WE have fought all these yrs to get Lolita free.Its time.Let her live out her last yrs free as she should be.Free to swim.Free to go where she wants to.We will not stop our fight until Lolita is free.Wonderful news we r hearing an Great news we need to hear.Lolita we love ya so,we will continue to fight your fight,be your voice.