Cruelty to Endangered Orca Nets Lawsuit Against Miami Seaquarium

PETA, ALDF, and Others Allege That Park Is Violating the Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release:
July 20, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382

Key Biscayne, Fla.

This morning, a coalition including PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Orca Network, and Orca Network Director Howard Garrett hit the Miami Seaquarium with a lawsuit contending that the facility’s imprisonment of Lolita the suffering orca—who’s currently being held without the company of any others of her kind in a cramped tank with no protection from the harsh sun—constitutes a violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under the protection of the ESA—which Lolita was granted following a successful petition from the coalition—her imprisonment and forced performances appear to constitute an unlawful “take,” meaning that she’s being harmed, harassed, or wounded.

“Decades of abuse, miserable confinement, and chronic deprivation have cost Lolita everything that’s natural and important to her,” says general counsel to PETA Jeffrey Kerr. “PETA is taking action now to ensure that the Miami Seaquarium is held accountable for her suffering, and we’ll continue to push for her relocation to a seaside sanctuary.”

“Lolita is protected by the Endangered Species Act and deserves to live a life free of harassment, in which she can engage in natural behavior,” says Stephen Wells, ALDF’s executive director. “We will continue to fight to win her protections under the law.”

Since 1970, Lolita has been unable to swim more than a few yards of the 100 miles a day she might cover in the wild. And her tiny tank offers no protection from the sun—which, according to a former caretaker, has caused her skin to crack and bleed. PETA, the ALDF, Orca Network, and countless concerned advocates have pushed for years for Lolita to be retired from performing and transferred to a seaside sanctuary that’s waiting for her in her home waters off Washington’s San Juan Islands, where she could interact with her family pod. In the wild, Southern Resident orcas often spend their entire lives with their mothers. Lolita appeared to recognize her pod’s calls decades after being captured, and the orca believed to be her mother—who’s estimated to be about 86 years old—is still thriving.

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