Animal activists have fought for years to free Lolita, a killer whale who has lived at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970. She has been living in captivity and entertaining crowds of tourists for over 40 years. Today, Lolita is one step closer to swimming out of captivity and into freedom because the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Fisheries Services has finally listed her as endangered.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted in 2005, and although the act protected killer whales in the wild, it did not apply to killer whales who were held kept in captivity, like Lolita and so many others. A petition from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other animal organizations urged the government to amend its listing of protected Southern Resident killer whales to include Lolita, who they believed to be a family member of the protected group. After genetic testing, the NOAA verified that Lolita originated from the same population of Southern Resident killer whales that are protected under the ESA. With these findings, the government agency ruled that it cannot exclude captive members of an endangered species and changed the language of the 2005 act to include captive individuals.
A step closer?
While Lolita will now carry the endangered listing status of the population she originated from, this decision does not impact her continued captivity at the Miami Seaquarium, because the ESA does not prohibit the keeping of captive animals. After the death of her performing partner, Hugo, in 1980, which many have attributed to the small tank he was living in, Lolita has lived in isolation and hasn’t seen another orca in over 30 years. Animal rights activists are hoping that this new status will put Lolita one step closer to release, and to finally leave her life of loneliness, performance, and isolation behind.
Peer into Lolita’s day-to-day life as a performance artist in this video, and learn why this ammendment to the ESA is an important step towards freedom.
While the ESA does not protect against the keeping of captive animals, they do prohibit the harming and harassing of protected animals. PETA believes that the conditions that Lolita is exposed to at the aquarium, such as a small tank and a lack of companionship, are a clear violation of the ESA guidelines, and may take legal action in order to attempt to free Lolita for good.
Take a stand!
This ruling does not affect the other captive orcas in the United States. Since Lolita was found to originate from the only population of the species that is considered endangered, she is the only captive orca to receive the endangered status. Lolita is just one of many orcas who are held captive for the amusement of tourists. Lolita is one step closer to freedom, but so many others need our help. Seaworld is one of the biggest companies who hold cetaceans in captivity for a profit. Boycott Seaworld, and tell them that their exploitative practices cannot be allowed to continue!
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