When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) placed Lolita, the only killer whale in Miami Seaquarium, on the endangered species list, along with the members of her pod that were stolen from the wild more than 40 years ago, there was a glimmer of hope that she might be freed from America’s smallest orca tank. Tragically, Miami Seaquarium, which has forced Lolita to perform for 45 years, has confirmed that she will remain captive at the park.
Lolita, who is 20 feet long and weighs 7,000 pounds, lives in is just four times the size of her own body, a dismal environment for a whale that can swim up to 100 miles a day in the wild. Activists claim her tank is illegal because a platform divider for trainers to stand cuts the pool to just 35-feet-wide at its narrowest, even though the aquarium states it is 80 by 60 feet.
Lolita lives in isolated captivity in America’s smallest whale tank.
To make matters worse, Lolita has been living all by herself since 1980 when her partner Hugo died from an aneurysm after beating his head into the sides of the concrete wall. Despite the fact that orcas are incredibly social animals, who in the wild would live in large pods, Lolita has been all alone except for a few dolphins that share her tiny tank.
In spite of years of petitions and activists calls for Lolita to be retired to a sea pen, Miami Seaquarium general manager Andrew Hertz stated, “We will continue our commitment to education, conservation and the appreciation for all marine species, including Lolita.”
Lolita has been forced to perform tricks and stunts at Miami Seaquarium for nearly her entire life since she was captured from the wild.
The Miami Seaquarium has argued that Lolita would far better living at the park than in the wild, citing Sea World’s release of Keiko the whale in which he passed away shortly after his return to the ocean. What the park fails to mention in this conclusion though is the fact that that 17 orcas died in captivity during the time Keiko was being successfully rehabilitated and released. The facts are simple: orcas don’t belong in bathtubs. Even SeaWorld, which has been a staunch defender of its orca captivity recently announced major changes to its amusement park to no longer breed orcas in captivity. This means the whales currently at the park will be the last generation on SeaWorld orcas.
While Lolita’s fate is still in the hands of Miami Seaquarium, all hope is not lost. As consumers, each and every one of us has the power to keep these facilities in business, or not. Miami Seaquarium can only continue to hold Lolita captive as a performing whale for as long as ticket sales support it. By refusing to visit attractions with captive animals, we can all help wild animals stay where they belong – in the wild.