From Washington State to Miami, Florida: Lolita’s Story

Lolita is a 48 year old captive killer whale (orca) living at the Miami Seaquarium…

Since her brutal capture off the coast of Seattle in 1970, she has been kept in a tank that is illegal based upon the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) standards for size requirements. Lolita is approximately 21 feet long and 7,000 pounds. Her tank is 20 feet deep at the deepest point and a mere 12 feet deep around the edges. The pool is only 35 feet by 80 feet wide. In spite of the fact, orcas are one of the most social animals on Earth, remaining with their family pods for life, Lolita has not seen another of her species since 1980. Instead, she is housed with four dolphins, performing two shows per day. The tank has little to no shade from the blistering Miami sun. 

The Miami Seaquarium is considered to be one of the most dilapidated aquatic parks in the world. It is in need of major repairs, and per the Marine Mammal Inventory Report, has a substantial death rate for their animals. Seaquarium’s care of Lolita is the focus of two current court cases, thanks to the Animal Legal Defense Fund

Please watch the video below to glimpse Lolita’s day-to-day life:

Returning Her to the Wild:

Many well intentioned people doubt that Lolita can be safely returned to Puget Sound. Some of the world’s top orca researchers and past releases of cetaceans show that captive animals can almost always be successfully reintroduced to their habitats.

In conjunction with Orca Network, we wish to see Lolita retired to a bay pen in her native waters off the coast of Washington State. There is a plan devised for her that would allow her to reside in a generously sized bay pen and be taken care of while slowly being re-acclimated to her natural water (view detailed retirement plan here). The plan is for her to get used to her natural surroundings while being able to interact with her family Southern Residents L-pod If she adapts well and chooses to do so, she may eventually be released to rejoin her pod. If for any reason she decides to return to the bay pen, she will remain in human care (with veterinary check-ups, prepared meals, and daily interaction) for the rest of her life while still being able to live in a spacious, natural environment in close proximity to her wild relatives.

Only a small hurdle remains in the way of Lolita’s retirement:

Miami Seaquarium owners Arthur and Andrew Hertz refuse to retire Lolita, even after decades of her performing shows and attracting visitors. Regardless of announcements to build a new tank for Lolita, the Seaquarium has instead focused its improvement projects in a different direction, by building a completely new facility called Dolphin Harbor, to take advantage of the lucrative swim with the dolphins craze. 

You can help: make phone calls, send letters, attend demonstrations/protests, and attract media attention! We encourage you to also check out the 2013 hit documentary Blackfish highlighting the wrongs of the orca captivity industry. You can also view the 2003 documentary Lolita: Slave to Entertainment, linked below.