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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)©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.

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  • Olivia Sherrington says:

    This is so disgusting! You wouldn’t like to be confined to a tiny room would you? So why confine these WILD animals to a tiny pool, you have ruined her life, torn her away from her family and taken her freedom! Free her and the rest of them

  • b. snider says:

    Yes, please FREE LOLITA .

  • Sharyn says:

    Let her live where she belongs Free and in God’s Ocean !!!

  • Marvin says:

    Free lolita

  • shilli says:

    Please please please free lolita! She needs and deserves to be free!!

  • Mirella says:

    This can’t be possible, Lolita has to live with her own species, not as an entertainment for humans! Set Lolita free NOW!

  • gardens8 says:

    Allow Lolita to finally come home after serving time for not even commiting a crime. Stop the cruel punishment!

  • Teri Mavrangelos says:

    FREE LOLITA! End her suffering now.

  • Casey White says:

    Earth was made for all of us, not just some of us. Stop treading on animals.

  • Burcu Ko says:

    Let Lolita have a happy life! Free Lolita!!!

  • Jan Swinehart says:

    They are not meant to be rode like horses.

  • derry says:

    Please put this beutifull animal back into her ocean with her family were she belongs. She is not for humans entertainment and profit.shes a living being who needs to be with her own species.I WILL NEVER VISIT AT SEA WORLD and neither would family or friends.

  • Gillian Porter says:

    Please free Lolita!!!

  • Camilla says:

    Free Lolita, NOW. It’s so wrong to treat animals this way.

  • Gabriela says:

    Liberen a Lolita, ella merece ser libre

  • end the suffering now…let her be free. FREE LOLITAAA!!!!!

  • elba says:

    Please help lolita to be free come on everybody together we can put lolita back her she belongs please todos con lolita

  • Tanya dokoury says:

    Pls release this beautiful animal. I cannot understand how you cannot see this is cruel. She was born to be free, not in a prison. She was born to be a whale, a Magnificat creature of the sea, not an entertainer, living in a swimming pool so she can make humans profit

  • This is really heart breaking. ..release her at Let her life free

  • joan silaco says:

    in one of the pix, there is not even a full audience! the nymets get more people than that! the pix ought to tell you something. 44 yesrs in prison is enought! freedom now!

  • 44 years of imprisonment and suffering , shame on you Miami and any public that have gone to be amused by her imprisonment and expoitation. She must be free NOW!!

  • Tracy bowden says:

    Please free her from her prison. She committed no crime. She needs freedom now.

  • Aravind K G says:

    Animals are not ours to own. Lock yourself inside a room for some days to understand its plight. Free animals, let the world be more beautiful on its own.

  • Ann Thornton says:

    Free Lolita

  • Vicky says:

    Please release Lolita! It is inhumane to take a species out of its habitat and force it to live in a unfamiliar and unsatisfactory environment. 44 years is enough. Lolita needs help adjusting to her real home again. This is so wrong!! And people should stop going to zoos and aquariums to see animals out of their habitats. The longer we support these institutions the longer they will continue to harm species and take advantage of them.

  • melinda says:

    The time has come to understand that animals are here for their own spiritual journey. It is not for us to dictate it. It is neither just or right. To disregard the suffering of another celestial being is perpetuating harm and therefore harming yourself. Stop and realise.. one love

  • Melissa says:

    Free her please!!!! She doesn’t deserve this! She did not ask for that life

  • Mary Ralls says:

    I hate this!!!! I refuse to visit anything where animals are the entertainment

  • Michelle Hines says:

    RELEASE ALL WHALES !! STOP the capture of whales. Its inhumane

  • Michelle Hines says:

    Please Release and Stop all whale shows they are not created for Seaworlds benefit. Leave them alone in the Oceans wild.. where they belong!!!

  • brenda says:

    human beings sometimes are the most unhuman beings on the planet… how can we be so cruel and enjoy other life’s abuse like that is something that escapes from my understanding…

  • MH says:

    So sad. Free Lolita.

  • Stella O'Mara says:

    Poor creature!!! Free her immediately please.

  • Emily Colosimo says:

    Do what is humanely right – set Lolita free to live her remaining years in her Ocean Home.

  • Michelle says:

    Set this beautiful creature free … this is not on she does not deserve a life like this

  • Debbie says:

    SeaWorld needs to set Lolita free. In a responsible manner.

  • Harmony Abercrombie says:

    Please free this poor creature. It is the right thing to do!!

  • Chloe says:

    What a beautiful creature, experiencing such a lonely and restricted life. Give her back the freedom she deserves.. The freedom that was selfishly taken away from her. It’s not too late! Do the right thing! Please!!

  • Vanessa Mann says:

    SHOW SOME HUMANITY AND FREE LOLITA!!!!! Enough is enough.

  • Carolina perdomo says:

    Please help!!!

    Don’t just read the article but do something about it!

    People that harm animals are the worst criminals and are not far from killing a human.

    We know these people are willing to do whatever they can to make billions of dollar.

  • Nan Newall says:

    Lolita and the other animals suffering at the hands of unscrupulous humans are slaves in our world. Promoting animal welfare is not merely a noble end in itself, it is necessary for the promotion of human welfare; for, if we get desensitized to animal pain and suffering, it is very easy to take the next step and become desensitized to human pain and suffering as well. To quote Dr. Tom Regan – “Animals have a life of their own that is of importance to them apart from their utility to us. They are not only In the world, they are aware of it. What happens to them mattes to them.”

  • Linda Phelan says:

    No wild animals should be kept in captivity for human profit or entertainment; ultimately, it is an abusive situation for the animal. It’s time to end cooperate greed/profit for a few at the expense of these amazing animals.

  • Joanna Whittaker says:

    40 years? This is cruel beyond comprehension. She deserves to be released immediately to a coastal sanctuary. The human race saddens me. We have so much power to do good…..please let her release be one of them.

  • Michele N says:

    Lolita should not have to be declared an endangered species to be set free. All animals who are suffering in conditions that do not mimic their natural environment, including socialization with other members of their species, should all be afforded the same protection regardless of their endangered status.

  • D. Grace says:

    Please understand these precious animals have feelings as we do!!!

  • M. Tucker says:

    I applaud your decision that Lolita is indeed an endangered Southern resident orca and, as such, is entitled to immediate release from the prison to which she ought never to have been taken. Although, sadly, there is no restitution to be given to her for her 40 years of wrongful imprisonment, at the very least you can speedily release her to a coastal sanctuary where she can feel the rhythm of the ocean once more. And might I suggest that SeaWorld and the other for-profit slavers be held responsible for any funds needed to make this happen post haste.

  • Anna Landaverde says:

    Lolita has to be with her family as a Southern Resident Orcas of the L pod. Let her go as soon as possible, She is protected by law.

  • Regina Walsh says:

    Why o why do you persist in such cruelty. End the suffering now.

  • Larry A Kisby says:

    No one should be denied the right to be with their family. Since Wales are mammals just like people, they should receive rights just like us as well.

  • Giselle Mangolin says:

    Poor Lolita!! Let her be free!

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