We finally have some promising news to share about Lolita, the oldest living orca in captivity. The Miami Beach Commission is now putting pressure on the Miami Seaquarium to release Lolita to a seaside sanctuary in the Pacific Northwest. Truly, this is the least they can do to ensure Lolita can live the rest of her years in peace. The Commission voted unanimously last week in favor of the resolution that urges Lolita be retired to the Orca Network, a non-profit that developed a retirement plan way back in 1995.
Even though the resolution only holds a symbolic significance, as the board does not have any legal power over the Miami Seaquarium, this is still a hopeful step. The plan would take six to eight weeks to transport, rehabilitate, and retire Lolita to the San Juan Islands in Washington State, close to her original home in Puget Sound. Orca Network estimates the process would cost $1.5 million in private sector funding.
The Mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine, is a long-time advocate for moving Lolita to a seaside sanctuary. “Hopefully, in the future, this animal will go on to its family in the Northwest,” he told the Miami Herald. But because Lolita was added to the endangered species listing for the Southern Resident killer whale in 2015, the minimal amount of risk would have to be taken to retire Lolita.
Lolita has lived almost her entire life in what is equivalent of a bathtub, this year marked her 47th year in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium. Activists have been fighting to free Lolita for years, and there have been a number of lawsuits that allege her tank is not up to regulations and it has even been considered that since she is the member of an orca pod listed as endangered, she should be privy to Endangered Species Act regulations that could permit her to return to the wild. Prior lawsuits have been denied.
Not surprisingly, the Miami Seaquarium is against the proposal, stating that the stress upon Lolita could prove fatal. Seems odd that they would all of a sudden care about her well-being after refusing to even expand the size of her tank. Importantly though, the more negative attention brought to the Miami Seaquarium, the more likely they are to retire Lolita to a sanctuary. At the end of the day, they won’t change anything until their bottom line is affected.
Please share this story to show the Miami Seaquarium that the world is watching and that we won’t give up until Lolita is free.
Image Source: Allan Watt/Flickr