Miami Beach Officials Step Up the Fight to Free Lolita

Animal advocates have been fighting for years to free Lolita, a lone orca at the Miami Seaquarium, and now they’re getting some additional support from city officials.

Lolita was once a wild and free member of the southern resident killer whales who live in the Pacific Northwest, but she was taken for public display in the notoriously brutal Penn Cove roundups that took place in the 1970s.

She has since spent almost 50 years at the Miami Seaquarium in the oldest and smallest tank in North America, and she’s been alone there since 1980 as the last surviving southern resident in captivity.

Her advocates have worked tirelessly on her behalf and even though she was officially included in the endangered species listing that protects her wild relatives, she’s continued to languish in her illegally small tank.

In an effort to help, the Miami Beach City Commission just voted unanimously on a resolution introduced by Mayor Philip Levine urging the Miami Seaquarium to release her from captivity into the care of the Orca Network and return her to her home waters.

Even though the resolution is symbolic, it doesn’t legally compel the Miami Seaquarium to release her, it is still a hopeful sign, and it’s certainly going to help keep the pressure on.

The Orca Network has an extensive retirement plan in place that’s been ready and waiting for her for years. The plan involves relocating her to a sea pen off the coast of Washington where she will be able to feel the current and communicate with her family. Lolita is from the L-pod and, and according to the Orca Network, she still calls out in the unique language used only by her family members.

“There’s every indication that Lolita remembers her family,” Howard Garrett, cofounder of the Orca Network, told the Miami New Times. “She still uses the calls, a unique set of whistles, that her family used to communicate when she was growing up. Even now, virtually every night, she calls to them.”

It’s ultimately hoped that she will be able to fully return to the wild and reintegrate with her family, however, if she is unwilling, or unable, they have vowed to provide care for her for the remainder of her life.

The Miami Seaquarium is, unsurprisingly, opposed to releasing her, continuing to argue it poses a significant risk, but Garrett countered, “There is no point in the plan where there is significant risk that cannot be avoided or seen and we will do all of that.”

We can hope coninuing to keep pressure on will help compel the Miami Seaquarium to do the right thing for Lolita before it’s too late.

For more on how to help, check out the Orca Network. For more on how to help support efforts to ensure Lolita has a family and home to return to, check out the Southern Resident Killer Whale Chinook Salmon Initiative, Center for Whale Research and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Photo credit: LEONARDO DASILVA

63 comments

Marie W
Marie W12 months ago

Thanks for the article

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Jennifer H
Jennifer Habout a year ago

It's about time that some "officials" put their weight behind Lolita.

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Philippa Powers
Philippa Powersabout a year ago

Free Lolita!

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Angela K
Angela Kabout a year ago

Time is overdue finally give her back freedom

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Misss D
Shari Fabout a year ago

An important action that we can all take to help Lolita, is to contact Mayor Philip Levine to praise him for his initiative in helping Lolita by introducing this resolution. This shows that he has the public’s support. This is not the first time that Mayor Levine has publicly supported Lolita’s release and it’s important that we support him in this. You can contact him on this link: http://mayorphiliplevine.com/contact/ Even if you just type ‘ Thanks for helping Lolita’ that would be great. Hopefully she will have the chance to thank us for it.

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Misss D
Shari Fabout a year ago

To add, expert legal reports that were prepared for the last court case against Miami Seaquarium were released by the judge, despite the Miami Seaquarium’s protests to keep them secret. You can view the papers on the following links: http://www.orcanetwork.org/Main/PDF/UNSEALED 120 Ex. A, Visser Expert Report.pdf and http://www.orcanetwork.org/Main/PDF/UNSEALED 119 Ex. A, Hargrove Expert Report.pdf.
It is worth noting the end comment of the former report which states: ‘It is my professional opinion that world-wide, this facility ranks as one of the top two contenders for the ‘worst conditions’ an orca is currently being kept in.’

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Misss D
Shari Fabout a year ago

That link: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/arts/dara-friedman-perfect-stranger-at-perez-art-museum-miami-november-3-through-march-4-9790108

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Misss D
Shari Fabout a year ago

There is a moron, Nicole Heindryckx, but it is not you. There is a minimum requirement regarding the overall size of the tank that marine mammals can be kept in. Lolita’s tank meets this criterion. However, the marine mammal, in this case, Lolita the killer whale, also has to have a line of uninterrupted travel from one end of the tank to the other. Lolita’s tank does NOT meet this criterion and this is what everybody is arguing over. Her tank is cut into two by an island in the middle that is adjoined to the side of the tank. Effectively, she has two small pools instead of just one. This limits her natural postural movements and means she cannot travel in a straight line for more than 35 feet in one direction. Lolita is 21 feet, so her tank is less than twice her body length in one direction. This is illegal. However, Miami Seaquarium have used all sorts of legal arguments saying that the island is actually floating and should not be considered as part of the tank. This is BS because it is fixed to the floor. They also claim that the overall tank size is what is referred to, rather than any obstructions within the pool. This is also BS as confirmed by APHIS, who enforce this legislation. APHIS have, for decades, been approving the annual renewal of MS’s license to keep Lolita but just this year, their position may have changed. See this article for more info. It also includes a picture of the tank, the island, and Lolita. You can see how little space she has.

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Kathryn I
Kathryn Iabout a year ago

The release of Lolita is long overdue, and she should be set free now!!! Petition signed. Thanks!

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Lenore K
Lenore Kabout a year ago

ok

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