Update: PETA Petition Prompts Government to Reconsider Lolita Exclusion
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.
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.