Federal Agency’s New Action May Mean Release for Orca at Seaquarium

Lolita to Gain Protected Status Following PETA, ALDF Petition

For Immediate Release:
January 24, 2014

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Miami – Currently confined alone to a tank at the Miami Seaquarium that’s smaller than even the minimum standard required by federal law, Lolita the orca’s future could soon take a turn for the better. Following a petition by PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Orca Network, and others, the National Marine Fisheries Service today proposed a rule to grant Lolita the same status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that covers all other Southern Resident orcas—the pod that she was seized from in 1970. PETA and the ALDF believe that the current confinement conditions that Lolita is subjected to are prohibited by the ESA. Today’s action opens the door to the prospect that she could be retired from performing and transferred to a seaside sanctuary, something PETA has long argued for.

“Lolita should never have been excluded from the Endangered Species Act in the first place, and now the government has righted that wrong,” says general counsel to PETA Jeffrey Kerr. “Lolita has suffered in that tank every day for more than four decades, and PETA is working hard to see her one day freed from her ordeal.”

“If Lolita had originally been granted the endangered status that she deserves, she might be back with her family by now,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The ALDF pledges to do everything in its power to see to it that she’s returned to the sea as soon as possible.”

Lolita—whose family was listed as endangered in 2005—is held in the smallest orca tank in North America and has been kept without another orca since 1980. She is afforded no protection from the sun, and she’s forced to perform tricks, which may violate the ESA’s protection against harm and harassment.

PETA and the ALDF will continue to work to have Lolita released into a seaside sanctuary that is waiting for her in her home waters off Washington’s San Juan Island and, if possible, back into her family pod. In the wild, Southern Resident orcas often spend their entire lives with their mothers. Lolita recognized her pod’s calls decades after being captured, and her 85-year-old mother is still thriving.

For more information, please visit PETA.org and ALDF.org.

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