Elisabeth Torres, Global Animal
Lolita is an orca whale who has been captive at the Miami Seaquarium for over 40 years. She was taken from her pod at just four years old and brought to the facility, which is the smallest orca whale housing in the nation. When she is not performing, Lolita is left to swim in her tank by herself day in and out, while Seaquarium owners, Arthur and Andrew Hertz, have profited tens of millions of dollars during her four decade enslavement.
Lolita was not always the only orca at the Miami Seaquarium. Years ago another whale was briefly housed with her, but died after slamming his head into a concrete structure in the middle of the tank. Something that might not have happened if the tank wasn’t smaller than mandated by the USDA. Killer whales are highly intelligent and social beings that develop close bonds with pod members, and Lolita has been without a companion since 1980.
An even more unfortunate part of Lolita’s situation is that she is an endangered species. The non-captive members of her Southern Resident pod are protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but without explanation, the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) did not extend the protection to the captive members of the pod. Even though federal law prohibits the taking, harming, or harassing of endangered species, Lolita remains captive in a tank that falls short of federal regulations for housing orcas.
Now a federal court must decide if being a member of an endangered species will allow Lolita to enjoy the freedoms promised to her in the ESA, which could include transferring her to a sea pen in her native waters and possibly even releasing her back into the wild. In an attempt to keep their big money performer at all costs, Arthur and Andrew Hertz have intervened to have the case thrown out. The Seaquarium is already responsible for the capture and exploitation of Lolita, and the death of an orca. Female orcas live an average of 50 years, and Lolita is at least 44 now. Surely it is time for her to retire. Getting Lolita protected under the ESA will ensure that she has the ability to enjoy what is left of her life. Click our take action mouse below to sign the petition urging the NMFS and Secretary of Commerce to let Lolita live as a free orca for the rest of her life.