Aerial View Shows Lolita the Loneliest Orca’s Incredibly Small Tank

Animal advocates who have been fighting to free Lolita, who has otherwise become known as the world’s loneliest orca, have long argued that her tank at the Miami Seaquarium is too small for her.

How small is it? Thanks to a new video posted to YouTube that offers a view from the sky, we can really get some perspective. The footage†zooms in to offer a glimpse of her life as she swims aimlessly in circles in what looks like it could be a pool in someone’s backyard.

The area she’s seen swimming in is 80 feet wide with 35 feet between the outer wall and the island barrier in the middle. She herself is long enough to stretch the full depth of the tank if she floats vertically. Not only does the tank look too small for her, it’s illegally small under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s standards for minimum size under the Animal Welfare Act.

It’s heartbreaking to think that Lolita has spent day after day in this tank for the past 45 years. She was once wild and free with a family of her own, the increasingly popular Southern Residents who live in the Pacific Northwest, but tragedy struck in 1970 when she was taken during the notoriously brutal roundups in Penn Cove. She has been alone since 1980, when her companion Hugo died from a brain aneurysm after repeatedly smashing his head against the walls in what many believe was a suicide.

Today, she is the last surviving Southern Resident in captivity. While her family was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2005, animal advocacy organizations have been working to get protection extended to her in the hope that it will lead to her freedom.

Her supporters believe that her captivity and continued exploitation would be a violation of the rules intended to protect endangered species under the Act and that the Miami Seaquarium would have to let her go.

Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) responded favorably†to a formal petition to include her in the listing, but a final decision isnít expected until January 24. Her advocates hope that her inclusion will mean she can finally go home.

While she may not be able to ever fully return to the wild, the Orca Network has a retirement plan in place that involves sending her back to a sea pen in her home waters off the coast of Washington, where she would at least be able to experience the ocean and communicate with others of her kind.

Unlike Keiko, Lolita still has family in the wild and we know where they are. According to the Orca Network, she still calls out in the unique language used only by her family members, the L pod. The ultimate goal of the plan is to reunite her with her pod, who her mother (L25) is believed to still a part of. However, if she is unwilling, or unable, they have vowed to provide care for her for the remainder of her life.

Her supporters are dedicating this weekend to her and will be taking to the streets outside the aquarium this Saturday to oppose her captivity and raise awareness about her plight for the Miracle March for Lolita, while more people are expected to hold sister events around the U.S., including her home state of Washington, and other countries around the world.

Robin Jewell Roberts, the events organizer, told the Miami New Times that Lolita’s supporters hope the march will show NOAA how much support there is for listing her. So far the effort has received support from the OrcaBall, Origami Whale Project and the Blackfish Brigade, along with the other organizations including the Dolphin Project, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and the Orca Network.

Not everyone will be able to make it there, but we can still help by sharing her story on social media and using #FreeLolita and #MarchforLolita for a Tweetstorm on Saturday.

For more info about this weekend’s events and how to help, check out the Miracle March for Lolita, the Dolphin Project and the Orca Network.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Adrienne L.
Adrienne L3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

sonia b.
sonia b4 years ago

poor human .poor end. justice now. now.

Chantelle Donaldson
Chantelle D4 years ago

What is wrong with people? How is it that people will do this to a beautiful, living creature just for a profit?

Shari F4 years ago

Just for interest, I thought I would share a link giving details of the plan that would be put in place to release Lolita - if SeaWorld or her potential new owners, Palace Entertainments, allowed it. It's on:

Cindy Flanders
Cindy Flanders4 years ago

This is just so incredibly cruel for this beautiful Orca, shame on this awful place. I just hope karma pays a very large debt to the people who are responsible for her captivity. Money is so evil, they should let her go and be free to live her life in the wild. I hate these places with a vengeance. Animals need to live freely just like us, I wish we could put all the people responsible in a small shed and see how they like living like this.

Tia T.
Tia T4 years ago

Money is the root of all evil. The inhumane captivity of this whale and all the animals trapped in zoos and circuses is all about man's greed for the dollar. Too bad we can't keep the people who don't want these animals released in zoos and circuses for our own entertainment.

William Moorman
William Moorman4 years ago


silja salonen
silja salonen4 years ago

As a society we will be judged on how we care for those who depend upon us.
Release this magnificent animal ...