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Lolita Update #140
Lolita gains protected status
May 11, 2015

Graphic design by Alisa Lemire Brooks. Photo by Jill Hein.

Lolita is officially a member of the Southern Resident orcas as of today.

The legal process is painfully slow, but this is a major stride toward the goal of bringing all parties - the Seaquarium, NOAA, PETA, ALDF, Orca Network, and the Center for Whale Research, together to make arrangements for Lolita's return to her native waters.

Over three years ago PETA and ALDF sued NOAA for inserting a paragraph excluding her in the 2005 listing of Lolita's extended family, the Southern Resident orcas, as an endangered population. That baseless exemption has now been removed. Now we can begin to argue the points in court that we and others have been saying as loud as possible for over 20 years. The news release by PETA and ALDF describing today's momentous events can be found below. This team of ace attorneys never misses a chance to tell Lolita's story, and they tell it well here.

But while this new legal leverage offers great promise of shaking Lolita out of that concrete box, this courtroom drama is not the only force at work for her today. Simultaneous with the ESA petition we have now won is another very important case still winding its way through federal courts. This case is designed to mandate that the USDA enforce the regulations in the Animal Welfare Act that they are supposed to uphold. The legal meanderings of that case are traced here. In combination with Lolita's new ESA status the USDA suit could eventually revoke the Seaquarium's annual license to display Lolita in that facility, and as a bonus could provide the evidence that her confinement in a tank violates ESA regulations.

At the same time OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has cracked down on the Seaquarium for endangering trainers by requiring them to ride on Lolita's back and jaws during shows. That case is set for a highly publicized appeal hearing in August, much like the OSHA hearing against SeaWorld that was featured in the documentary film Blackfish. John Hargrove has been tapped by OSHA to be their expert witness for this hearing. Get the popcorn ready.

All the while the rising thunder of public condemnation of the Seaquarium for continuing to keep Lolita in "pathetic and illegal conditions" (see the press release below) must be rattling the executive suites at Palace Entertainment, the new owner of the Seaquarium. Weekly demonstrations at the entrance to the Seaquarium are growing more intense, (see Hundreds Protest In Support Of Lolita, The Killer Whale, or Activists call for release of Miami Seaquarium's Lolita), and now protestors are showing up at other theme parks owned by Palace Entertainment, such as Animal rights protesters to target Kennywood, other Palace Entertainment parks Saturday

There are so many frisbees in the breezy air right now that it's hard to say where any of them may land or how soon, but the public is getting riled, the attorneys are brilliant and agile, and new players are coming into the scene all the time, so it's a sure thing that a whole lot more could happen now than ever before.

Washington's Derik Nelson Band has written and performed a moving song called "Lolita." The siblings also produced a sweet music video for the song a few weeks ago on Whidbey Island, where Lolita and many of her family members were captured over forty years ago. Please enjoy the melodies and poetry of Lolita.

Lolita's overall rehab and retirement plan in the waters where she was born and raised can be found here and below is the short version of the 11-point plan for Lolita's preparations, transport, rehabilitation and potential reintegration with her family or retirement in her native waters:


Monday morning PETA and ALDF filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Seaquarium for violating the ESA. Here’s the news release:

For Immediate Release:

May 11, 2015
David Perle 202-483-7382, ext. 2194; DavidP@peta.org (PETA)
Megan Backus 707-795-2533, ext. 1010 (office); 707-479-7872 (mobile); mbackus@aldf.org (ALDF)


PETA, ALDF, and Others Allege That Lone Orca Lolita's Barren Prison Violates the Endangered Species Act

Miami — PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Orca Network, and two individuals sent a letter this morning to the Miami Seaquarium—where Lolita the orca is being held without the company of any others of her kind and imprisoned in a cramped tank with no protection from the hot sun—notifying the business of their intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Thanks to a successful petition filed by the coalition and others, Lolita was officially granted the same protection under the ESA as the rest of her family in the wild. The letter contends that Lolita's imprisonment at the Seaquarium is an unlawful "take" (that is, that she is being harmed, harassed, and/or wounded) in violation of the ESA.

"Lolita has already endured more than 40 years of miserable confinement, with devastating consequences for her well-being," says PETA Foundation Director of Animal Law Jared Goodman. "PETA is taking action to ensure that this facility's blatant disregard for her welfare and apparent violation of the law do not cost her more time in a tiny concrete tank."

"For too long, Lolita has suffered pathetic and illegal conditions at the Miami Seaquarium," says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. "ALDF intends to see that this facility's failure to comply with the law, and the harms they've caused her, is swiftly corrected by the courts."

Since 1970, Lolita has been unable to swim more than a tiny fraction of the 100 miles a day she might cover in the wild. Lolita's tiny tank offers no protection from the sun—which, according to a former caretaker, has caused her skin to crack and bleed. PETA, ALDF, Orca Network, and countless concerned advocates have pushed for years for Lolita to be retired from performing and transferred to a seaside sanctuary that's waiting for her in her home waters off Washington's San Juan Islands, where she could interact with her family pod. In the wild, Southern Resident orcas often spend their entire lives with their mothers. Lolita appeared to recognize her pod's calls decades after being captured, and the orca believed to be her mother—who's estimated to be about 86 years old—is still thriving.

For more information, please visit PETA.org and ALDF.org.

Much is going on to help bring Lolita home and to inform and advocate for her and her family Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to help Orca Network continue this work by clicking HERE. Thank you!

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