Lolita isn’t a cat. While she isn’t a beloved finned-family member, she presently has a group of devoted active animal advocates who are working passionately to set her free. These advocates are in the process of taking further legal action to finally get her released back into the wild. Lolita is a highly intelligent 20 foot long, beautiful 7,000 pound female Orcinus Orca. The species is also known as Killer Whales.
Forty years ago, Dr. Jesse White, the Seaquarium veterinarian purchased Lolita for about $2,000. Upon her arrival at the Seaquarium she joined a male Orca named Hugo. Hugo had been living at the Miami Park facility for two years prior to Lolita’s appearance. The two Orcas lived together for ten years in the Whale Bowl- a small tank measuring 80 feet by 60 feet.
The Orca pair mated frequently during the period they lived together but no offspring were produced. Sadly, Hugo ultimately died after repeatedly smashing his head against the sides of the tank. Some people think that he may have committed suicide.
After Hugo died, Lolita’s only companions are two Pacific white-sided dolphins. She hasn’t had the pleasure of the company of, or seeing any other Orcas since Hugo’s demise. She has been living in this extremely small tank for more than 40 years at the Park although she is featured as their main star attraction.
Orcas are gregarious animals socially interacting in complex pods ranging in groups from 2 to 15 individuals. Orca pods can also reach into the hundreds; however experts claim that these large groupings are only temporary and occur only when food supplies are plentiful and during mating periods.
Lolita has no pod in which she can interact. She lives in the same watery prison which is only 80 feet by 60 feet, or 35 feet if measured with the island barrier in the middle. Since the tank is only 20 feet deep, if she floats vertically and stretches out her full body length, there is no room to spare. She has no chance to escape the sweltering sun’s rays which, according to her former caretakers, have caused her serious burns, cracked skin and bleeding.
According to the Animal Welfare Act, this tank size is illegal based on the standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additionally, she suffers from social isolation since she is deprived of the companionship of members of her own species.
Fortunately Lolita has several active groups of animal activists who have been deeply moved by her plight. Last February her supporters won a major victory. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that Lolita would be included in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) which protects her relatives in the wild. The Center for Whale Research gave Lolita an ID like the rest of her family members of the L-pod.
This inclusion gives Lolita’s legal advocates very strong grounds upon which to sue. While many lawsuits have already been filed over the dire conditions under which she lives, for the first time her advocates are directly targeting the Miami Seaquarium.
The Seaquarium has been notified of their intentions to sue based on many ESA violations. Advocates will be arguing that Lolita’s living conditions are prohibited under the ESA, since it includes harassing and harming endangered species. Advocates are hopeful that this case will end up with an injunction against the Seaquarium and that the court will order the park to retire Lolita to her home waters. The Miami Seaquarium has 60 days in which to respond.
An extensive retirement plan is already in place by the Orca Network. It involves relocating Lolita to a sea pen off the Washington coast where she will be able to once again feel the current and be able to communicate with her pod. Incredibly her mother is still alive. It is thought that she is about 86 years old and she is still living in the same pod that Lolita lived in prior to her capture.
For more about Lolita’s story, watch the compelling video uploaded to YouTube by Johnny Tsunami.
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