PETA Statement re Death of the Orca Lolita

For Immediate Release:
August 18, 2023

David Perle 202-483-7382


She died as she had lived: After spending more than five decades imprisoned by the Miami Seaquarium in the smallest, bleakest orca tank in the world, deprived of any semblance of a natural life, the long-suffering orca Lolita has passed away. Her death follows years of PETA protests, lawsuits, an endangered species designation, and the recent announcement that, thanks to philanthropist and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, plans were finally being made to move her to a seaside sanctuary. PETA will hold a vigil in her honor outside the Seaquarium tonight at 8:30 p.m. and tomorrow at 3 p.m. Please see the following statement from PETA President Ingrid Newkirk:

Kind people begged the Miami Seaquarium to end Lolita’s hellish life in a concrete cell and release her to a seaside sanctuary, where she could dive deep, feel the ocean’s currents, and even be reunited with the orca believed to be her mother, but plans to make this move came too late, and Lolita was denied even a minute of freedom from her grinding 53 years in captivity. PETA urges families to honor her memory by never visiting marine parks and is calling on the Seaquarium to continue with plans to send the dolphin who was Lolita’s tankmate to a seaside sanctuary, along with all the other dolphins, before the death toll rises, and for SeaWorld to learn from this tragedy and relinquish the orca Corky, who has been imprisoned in tiny tanks for nearly 54 years, before she shares Lolita’s fate. May all wild animals be free!

Lolita, who was captured from the wild in 1970 along with other orcas who were sent to SeaWorld parks, lived at the Miami Seaquarium without another orca from the time her companion, Hugo, died in 1980 after repeatedly ramming his head into the tank wall. The Seaquarium then held Lolita in a tank with incompatible dolphins who attacked her. She displayed repetitive and abnormal behavior, which, according to marine-mammal experts, indicated severe psychological trauma.

Late last year, PETA obtained a damning federal inspection report revealing that the Seaquarium had restricted dolphins’ food by up to 60% for months in order to make them obedient for performances, among other incidents. In 2021, a 17-page federal inspection report revealed that the facility had failed to provide Lolita with sufficient shade, reduced her food intake against veterinary instruction, and forced her to perform in ways that likely injured her. The U.S. Department of Agriculture subsequently elected not to allow the Seaquarium’s new owner, The Dolphin Company, to exhibit Lolita publicly—paving the way for the plan to transfer her to a seaside sanctuary in the Pacific Northwest, where the dolphins kept at the Seaquarium could still go.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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