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After 46 Years, the Loneliest Whale Could Get a New Home

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Posted May 11, 2015 by Kim Johnson

The National Marine Fisheries Service has finally granted Lolita—the lonely orca who’s being confined to a cramped tank at the Miami Seaquarium—the protections that she’s entitled to under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Orca's like Lolita are captured from the wild for marine parks© Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.
 The ESA protects members of a group of endangered wild orcas, known as “the Southern Residents,” in the Pacific Northwest from being harmed or harassed. But Lolita was excluded from the endangered listing without justification.

lolita2©Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.
 When Lolita was only 4 years old, she was torn away from her family in the Puget Sound. She’s the sole survivor of the horrifying capture and has spent nearly 46 years in the tiniest orca tank in the United States—a tank that also violates the Animal Welfare Act’s minimum size requirements.

Aerial photography shows Lolita in her cramped tank.

The new rule—which becomes effective in about 90 days—now includes Lolita in the endangered listing. So, what does this mean for her?

Now that Lolita has been given additional protection from “harm and harassment,” PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Orca Network, and two concerned individuals have announced their intent to sue the Miami Seaquarium on behalf of Lolita and are seeking her freedom from the facility!

lolita-sea-penOrca Tank Image: Drones For Animal Defense | Sea Pen Image: © 2015 Google | © 2015 Europa Technologies

A protected coastal sea pen off Washington’s San Juan Islands would allow her greater freedom of movement and the opportunity to see and communicate with the orca believed to be her mother and the rest of her long-lost family members, who still spend much of their time in the area.

How You Can Help

Remember: Every aquarium ticket purchased directly contributes to captive animals’ misery. Never go to any theme park that uses animals—and urge your friends and family members to stay away, too.

Tell Palace Entertainment (Miami Seaquarium’s buyer) to give Lolita her freedom and immediately release her to a coastal sanctuary that can provide her with a more natural environment.

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