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Update: PETA Petition Prompts Government to Reconsider Lolita Exclusion

Written by PETA | January 23, 2013

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 Resident orcas.

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. 


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Orcas are members of the dolphin family. They are also the largest animals held in captivity. In the wild, orcas stay with their mothers for life.

In It to Win It for Lonely Lolita

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.

How You Can Help Lolita and Other Captive Animals

Orcas, dolphins, and other marine mammals belong in the sea, not the Seaquarium. Please never visit any marine park or aquarium where these smart, social, and sensitive animals are held captive.

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  • Carolanne says:

    Please rease all captives orcas …

  • Cricket F. Johnson says:

    Please release Lolita so she can swim free and rejoin her family! It is the humane thing to do!

  • Pat says:

    Please release Lolita. It is the right thing to do.

  • This is really great news! Lolita will be able to spend her mature years in the natural environment, near her relatives and other sea life. Bravo!

  • cynthia says:

    Please suggest strategies we can all use to increase public support for Lolita’s plight!

  • Sarah says:

    I pledge to never visit a marineworld park, stop exploiting these animals for personal gain. Free lolita she is on death row, her tank discusts me and her trainers for not waking up to this mortifying reality. Please dont buy tickets and shut these places down…..

  • Soriya Tei says:

    Free Lolita! Her life is way more important than MONEY! Stop being greedy and do what’s right and LET HER GO!!!

  • Jan Emerson says:

    Please free this whale from captivity and rehabilitate her for release into the ocean.

  • Freedomisntreallyfree says:

    Free her she deserved to with her family not in a swimming pool

  • Katrin Büttner says:

    FREE HER!!!! SHE DESERVES IT!!!!

  • Antonia & Andrew Chianis says:

    Please move your Orcas to coastal sanctuaries. They are such intelligent creatures and deserve much better than you are giving them. Let them at least have friends.

  • mia nina says:

    Please FREE her.

  • Lindsey Lamb says:

    Please stop doing this to these amazing creatures

  • sevda says:

    FREE LOLITA FREE LOLITA FREE LOLITA FREE LOLITA

  • Tina Tuell says:

    PLEASE “FREE” LOLITA.SHE”S MADE MORE THAN ENOUGH MONEY,AND SHE NEEDS TO GO BACK HOME.”PLEASE” LET HER GO!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Sg REY says:

    Lolita deserve a better life and FREEDOM!

  • adelen ramos says:

    She has a better chance to adapt in this Seattle Sea pin till she can hunt and be released to mate. It would be sad to see Lolita pass away in the Miami Se aquarium with out being a mother. In this tank it would never happen. She deserves a chance to be free. Im a Lolita supporter.

  • Naomi Weinstein says:

    Lolita should be freed. It is way past time.

  • Ashley says:

    Please release her, she is tired, ocras are very social animals (6-40 in a group); being in a small space working with no companionship must be very stressful for her. At least let her retire for her last few days on this Earth.

  • PETA says:

    Thanks for your question, Kelly. For those sea animals whose health or behavior has been too compromised by their years—or decades—in cramped, chemically treated tanks, there is still an alternative to an outright release. Protected sea pens—large coastal coves that would still contain the animals—will allow greater freedom of movement; the ability to see, sense, and communicate with their wild cousins and other ocean animals as well as to feel the tides and waves; and opportunities to engage in the behaviors that they’ve long been denied. And of course, the process would be a considerable undertaking, with marine biologists, animal behaviorists, and scientists involved in their rehabilitation.

    SeaWorld has the means to make this happen, and we will continue to campaign for the company to do so. Please speak up for orcas by asking the Blackstone Group, the company that owns SeaWorld, to create and move its orcas to coastal sanctuaries: https://secure.peta.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2945.

  • Taylor @ Wild Bird Food says:

    That’s really rude of doing stuff like that and giving freedom for such a living this is very important.

  • Kelly Whale says:

    What is a “seaside sanctuary”? Is it like an enclosed pen in the ocean?

  • jainine anderson says:

    Please listen to your heart and stop profiting from Lolita and other innocent captives. Do the right thing and find other means of profiting that causes no harm to living, feeling beings. I thank you for reading my letter. Release her. The suffering of animals for our entertainment is morally wrong and cruel. Open the hearts of people to the sight of healthy, happy animals in their natural habitats as a positive form of education.

  • orcawhales76 says:

    Lolita deserves the same respect and concern as her family in Washington State. She DID NOT asked to be taken captive and have her rights taken away from her. She deserves the same respect as the rest of the resident orcas of Washington. Lolita is also suffering in the small pool she is in. There are many things wrong with where she is and she needs to be with her family. PLEASE LET LOLITA GO HOME TO WASHINGTON STATE.

  • Lauren Garbutt says:

    Keeping such a large animal in such a small tank is disgusting and practically animal abuse. Lolita the orca should definitely be moved to a larger environment or rehabilitated to the wild. Please protect her under the ESA.

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