Lolita’s advocates work hard to set this imprisoned Orca free

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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.

Visit the Orca Network, the Center for Whale Research, and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s websites for more information about Lolita and how you can help.

For more about Lolita’s story, watch the compelling video uploaded to YouTube by Johnny Tsunami.

What feelings came up for you when reading this story? Share them in a comment.

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8 thoughts on “Lolita’s advocates work hard to set this imprisoned Orca free”

  1. My first thought is where the heck do you buy these creatures? They are suppose to live in the ocean where they are born and God intended for them to be. I think in the case of this poor soul, it is very cruel to keep her away from her own without interaction with her own species. I do hope the attempt to set her free is a success and she can once again be left to do what she was originally meant to do.

    • Yes, $2,000 seems cheap dare I say it. It does make you think. It is almost as if there is a retailer selling orcas! Weird and very sad. It is very hard to beat big businesses. They have a stranglehold over these things.

  2. I advocate against the exploitation of ANY and ALL living beings, for the reason that I don’t condone doing to others what I would not want done to myself. Senseless exploitation of others of any species for “entertainment” is to me one of the absolute worst crimes imaginable.

    Sandra Murphey posting above, that would be Lion Country Safari, late but certainly not lamented; and there was a “Lion Farm” at an even earlier time; I saw something about these on a PBS documentary about “Things That Aren’t Here Anymore”.

  3. The things that humans do to creatures like this make me feel sick. Without awareness, people have no idea what sacrifices are thrust upon creatures who have no voice.

    I remember enjoying seeing animals at the zoo when I was a city child. I also remember the delight of taking a mentally ill person there about 20 years ago. And as a photographer, I have many precious photos of lion cubs and older ones.

    But I will never visit a zoo, or circus or any place where animals are captive in an environment that is unnatural for them, and their well being. With You Tube, I can witness animals I’d never be able to see otherwise, and learn more about them than just seeing them confined in small spaces for my amusement.

    The best place I remember visiting is the San Diego Wild Animal Park, where they had acres of free reign, and people traveled above them on a silent tram. There was another place where we could drive in a car, and the animals could approach us in that way. I don’t remember the name of it, or if it still exists.

    • Without awareness

      Agreed. There is far too much ignorance causing animal abuse through negligence. In this instance it is pure, callous exploitation as these business people know exactly what they are doing.

      I was fairly ignorant of animal welfare at one time. The more I read about it the more I realise humans as a whole have a problem in their relationship with animals.

  4. What feelings came up for you when reading this story? Pain. I can sense the mental torment that these intelligent creatures have to bear imprisoned in a watery cage. It is nothing short of horrendous and I can’t let myself think about.

    These organisations should be closed for good. The world has moved on and we know that exploiting killer whales like this is cruel and immoral.


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