Feds Take Possible First Step Toward Freeing Lolita, Miami Seaquarium's Orca

Categories: Environmental

lolitathewhale-1.jpg
With the popularity of the documentary Blackfish, which focuses on captive orcas at SeaWorld, public debate over keeping the endangered species in captivity has reignited.

For years, activists have tried to have Lolita, an orca held captive at the Miami Seaquarium, released. Today, federal officials announced that they are taking the first steps toward having Lolita included in the endangered species listing for Puget Sound orcas. It could be a possible path to having Lolita released to a more natural setting.

See also: Seaquarium Activists Push to Free Lolita the Whale

Back in 1970, Lolita was captured off Puget Sound, Washington, and sold to the Seaquarium. Since 1980 she has been the facility's only orca and has lived with two dolphins in a relatively small enclosure. In fact, it's the smallest orca tank in North America.

Lolita's family, the Puget Sound L-pod, was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2005, but Lolita was made an exception. She's the last surviving whale from the pod that still lives in captivity.

See also: Are Seaquarium Animals Harmed by Excessive Partying?

The National Marine Fisheries Service announced today that they are now seeking public comment as to whether Lolita should be protected as well.

Update: We had previously linked to an outdated public comment form on the case. The new public comment form will go online on Monday, January 27th.

"Lolita should never have been excluded from the Endangered Species Act in the first place, and now the government has righted that wrong," said PETA general counsel Jeffrey Kerr in a release. "Lolita has suffered in that tank every day for more than four decades, and PETA is working hard to see her one day freed from her ordeal."

If Lolita is granted protective status, she could be transferred to a seaside sanctuary near her original home of Puget Sound where she would either live out the rest of her life or possibly eventually be returned to the wild and rejoin her family. That would include her 85-year-old mother, who still lives in the wild.

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111 comments
ob1sfla
ob1sfla

mammals, very intelligent, should not be in captivity, let them free 

Exiliado
Exiliado topcommenter

I wonder how many of those posting here hold a degree in Marine Biology, or for what it matters, any degree at all.


Animals don't understand concepts like "freedom" or "shame". Those are abstract concepts that only humans understand.  An orca does not "feel ashamed" of performing in front of an audience any more than a raccoon is ashamed of digging in a trash can. 

Animals live and function by instincts and/or conditioned behaviors. They do what they have to do to feed, survive and reproduce. That's it. Those instincts, by the way, include attacking and/or killing other animals, for protection or for food. We don't call it murder.

All this boohaha about Lolita is not about how Lolita feels or will feel in the future. It is about humans and what THEY feel, thinking an orca gives a damn where the fish they eat comes from.

bambi_h
bambi_h

Please become involved in stopping the capture & transport of marine animals. Currently in Taiji, Japan, mass dolphin captures and slaughters are taking place. They are driven to a cove by boats & people banging on poles to disrupt their communication. It is brutal, inhumane, and stressful for them. Once the "pretty" ones are chosen for capture (often young dolphins that can't survive without their mothers), the rest are slaughtered or driven back out into the ocean - those animals are often exhausted, weak, dehydrated, and missing their family members. Many of them will try and go back to reunite with the other dolphins. NONE of these animals belong in tanks & they're dying for our cheap entertainment thrills. For more information, search Taiji Dolphin hunts or go to:


https://www.facebook.com/SeaShepherdCoveGuardiansOfficialPage 


recently: 4 baby bottle nose dolphins that were captured for sale to aquariums died in holding pen - they will now be slaughtered. It is so senseless & such a waste of life that takes years to reproduce. Our oceans cannot sustain this type of horrific behavior any more.


Sign petitions to stop the madness here:


https://www.facebook.com/groups/SaveTaijiDolphins/202045389994267/?notif_t=like


soniammuniz
soniammuniz

 #blakeleigh.bagwell, your response to the stupid comments are great! Love them

Claudia Fontes
Claudia Fontes

Tra Monteiro Fontes - didn't know there was an orca there too! RoboPeg Eysalen

tcarroll5
tcarroll5

in response to the  documentary Blackfish and the movie The Cove Please consider signing this petition to stop the activity of dolphins & whales for entertainment in the US. And forwarding to your network.  96,000+ signatures are needed before the administration at the White House will respond. http://tinyurl.com/p6qulx8
If there's enough public outcry to stop these ridiculous carnival acts they will soon be seen as the horse diving off the bridge in Coney Island in the early 1900s.

Antwyone Ingram
Antwyone Ingram

Debee, you clearly can't read. Stop embarrassing yourself....3 comments ago and counting. Read the article, very slowly.

cheagrace
cheagrace

I would rather die free than survive enslaved.  FREE LOLITA

Debee Gaines Steingart
Debee Gaines Steingart

She will get trapped in the first net there is. She doesn't know what's out there. It's like the prisoners after 30 years. The real world proves to much for them

Michael del Vice
Michael del Vice

She's been hand fed for too many years. There's no way, look at keiko the killer whale...she'll die of starvation and that really really sucks.

Debee Gaines Steingart
Debee Gaines Steingart

If you love her and after 30 years let her on her own she will die. 30 years of a safe environment. She's fed. No fear of humans. Water temp for her. It's too late to set her free unless you want her to die free. Leave her alone and make sure you don't en trap another whale. You are not helping her by letting her go free when she knows nothing else. Wake up people. And she's not suffering. She doesn't know better

Dena Landon
Dena Landon

I'll try to break it down if i can at work lmao Natalia Caro

Natalia Caro
Natalia Caro

Dena Landon, I'm so confused now! What if it was all a lie? I need a marine biologist in my life!

damnthatradio
damnthatradio

Everyone saying she won't survive, she won't survive. They aren't planning on just dumping her back into the ocean. Did any of you even read this article? If removed from Miami Seaquarium she will be placed in an open water sea-pen. She won't be on her own, just living in the ocean, while still contained so she can receive care and proper food and such. If she proves to be rehabilitated enough to return to her family, then so be it, but at the very least she needs to be OUT of that circus setting, she needs to not be forced to turn tricks for tourists every day, and she needs MORE SPACE. She deserves better than a tiny, chlorinated, concrete swimming pool. Stop being so pessimistic. Nature can do marvelous, miraculous things when given an opportunity. These are very intelligent and majestic creatures that deserve our respect. She shouldn't be dismissed and left to rot in that tiny tank because she's simply "too old" to be released. If anything, her age makes her deserve this even more. If she gets to spend even one day in the ocean before she dies, it'll be worth every effort.

Debee Gaines Steingart
Debee Gaines Steingart

Jerry Gonzalez I think if you asked a convict weather he wants to die or live in a cage. They all beg for Life and the cage. She has been there 30 years. She's fed. Water temp is set for her. A b day you think she wants to be free for an hour than live in the cage. You are ignorant.

Debee Gaines Steingart
Debee Gaines Steingart

I understand it's so wrong to capture these magnificent creatures. BUT this whale won't make it out there on her own. Not any more. She thinks humans are here friends. She doesn't hunt her own food. She will Die. Just don't do it again. This whale won't make it on her own.

Alessandra Cata
Alessandra Cata

Lolita wont be able to survive .,, too old! She been there for atleast 30 yrs hand fed... She wont make it

Alex Solla
Alex Solla

The prospect of Lolita being reunited with her 85 yr old mom in the Puget Sound is awesome. Sure would be fantastic.

Jerry Gonzalez
Jerry Gonzalez

Everybody is asking if she can survive in the wild. Too bad we can't ask her. My money says she would enjoy one hour free more than last 43 years in captivity.

Angle Dangle
Angle Dangle

Can this mammal who has been deprived a normal Orca life survive in the wild? Also, i think this isn’t the place for the feds to be dwelling in.

Matt Heyde
Matt Heyde

The 'facts' in this write up aren't really facts. I can almost pick it apart line by line with bad info. Seriously, if you are going to try and make a point, lying about it makes you look bad. What 'facts' that are correct have been taken so far out of proper context it's laughable. I love that somone who has never been up close to the animal feels the need to provide comments about her life. Can anyone explain how Kerr is qualified to make that claim? Is he a marine mammal expert? Is he a marine biologist at all? Has he worked with every every day for the past four decades to know what she does and doesn't go through? No to all of the above. I'm not 100% sure his extensive legal background and lack of contact with this animal suits him to make such a bold claim. Maybe you guys should talk to a biologist, a marine mammal vet, or someone who actually works with ocras to get info on how this animal is doing instead of asking a lawyer. Find the proper expert for the right statements. I don't take my car to the dentist to have the engine rebuilt.

Isabel Flores
Isabel Flores

Oh, no! Lolita will die. She is old and not prepared to live in the wild!!!! A better idea is to give her a larger habitat.

AnaCampos
AnaCampos

Thank you New Times for publishing this. Hope you post a new article when the new comment period is open. 

Alicia Vechik
Alicia Vechik

Sadly thus is a great example of how the American public will rabidly believe something on a movie screen as undeniable truth. Equally sad is this same American public also lacks the willingness to do the research to find what is true and what is false. Hollywood will lie to you people for the right price. Just because its labeled as a documentary doesn't mean its true people. That is where your homework begins. Unfortunate for this orca, she might get her freedom simply to die of starvation.

Matt Heyde
Matt Heyde

Another media epic fail. LOL Anyone who say otherwise needs to learn a thing or two about orcas. This animal is not fit for release and is doing just fine in her current situation. The lies Blackfish fed the general population are tragic.

ob1sfla
ob1sfla

@Exiliado no body gave us rights to enslave animals, we think in this Universe everything works how we humans see it, one days, we would know who the real animals are, those given intelligence, abusing it, or those smart in a different way living in sink with the rest of us and nature

LiRE
LiRE

From all your comments I have to wonder if you even read the article or did any research on the matter before you typed anything out and hit enter. Assuming the answer is no, just from the amount of ignorance you're showing, I'll copy and paste the key point you're obviously missing.

"If Lolita is granted protective status, she could be transferred to a seaside sanctuary near her original home of Puget Sound"

So no, they're not just dumping her in the middle of nowhere with a "best of luck" sign stuck to her back, they're giving her a sea pen with fresh, cleaner water and more room to behave and live as naturally as possible for the remainder of her life.

orcachic4
orcachic4

Check out the real story of Keiko. He didnt die of starvation. He had pneumonia. There is a huge plan in place that completely covers all aspects of moving Tokitae (lolita is the stupid show name they gave her and does not do her justice) They are very intelligent marine mammal experts and orca specialists. They know the likelyhood of her ever being able to be released are slim. But her family still roams those waters. She still responds to the calls of her pod. Swimming in fresh water, hearing and possibly interacting with her pod..are much better than sitting like a log day in and day out, except for the 2 show times she performs. she lays at the surface of her pool, with no shade, hot blazing sun beating on her. crappy dead, antibiotic stuffed fish given to her when she performs. So anyway, check out the real story of Keiko. 

orcachic4
orcachic4

She was wild caught..she wasnt born in captivity..she does know better. she responds to the calls of her pod when played to her. if you care so much about this situation, read up on it. There are many people who have been fighting for years to get a better life for her. They arent fly-by-the-wayside commenters who think they know what to do..these are highly trained orca specialists and marine mammal experts who have put togetehr and funded a huge comprehensive plan to retire her, most likely forever, in the waters she was brutally kidnapped from. But your passion is commendable. I highly suggest googling the topic and you will see all that has been happening for her.

sadiejude
sadiejude

No you are. Do your research. Shes been there 40 years! She was caught at a late enough age to where she was hunting on her own. Orca families NEVER forget each other and they never leave each other. Her mother is still alive and WILL recognize her, She just wont be dumped back in the ocean but she will be placed in her home waters in a seapen closely monitored until full release.

blakeleigh.bagwell
blakeleigh.bagwell

She's not a whale! Shes a dolphin.... Read up on your species... If you can, as its clear you did NOT read this article.  She has been captive for 40+ years not 30... They aren't planning on releasing her! They are planning on retiring her.... Go troll somewhere else!

damnthatradio
damnthatradio

Perhaps she may not survive on her own, but no one will no until they give her the chance. Did you even read the article? It says they plan to release her to an open water sea pen near her original home, where she will be able to experience the natural rhythms of the ocean, and live in peace without being forced to perform humiliating circus tricks for the amusement of tourists day in and day out. She deserves better than that. How dare you compare her to a convict in prison. A convict made a conscious decision to commit a crime and are serving out a punishment, this whale did nothing more than live a life that nature intended and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when she was captured. No one wants to see her die, no one is going to serve her a death sentence. But she should at least be given the opportunity of rehabilitation, and if she then cannot be on her own, she can live in a peaceful setting where there aren't people forcing her to act like a circus clown for a few dead fish.

blakeleigh.bagwell
blakeleigh.bagwell

You didn't read the article... that's exactly what they intend to do... SEAPEN!!!! Fool

blakeleigh.bagwell
blakeleigh.bagwell

It's clear you did not read the article Matt.  Retirement to seapen not release!

sadiejude
sadiejude

LOL your ignorance makes me laugh...Thanks!

Exiliado
Exiliado topcommenter

Actually, we are all born FREE to do as we please, as long as we respect other people's rights and The Law.


You can whine all you want. People will continue to hunt and fish, for a variety of purposes, and with a variety of methods, LEGALLY. 

People will continue to breed, raise, butcher and eat animals as we please.



Nobody gives a damn what your childish opinion is.

If you don't like it, stay home and eat broccoli. Please feel free to do so, it is your right. Just get the heck out of the way.

bambi_h
bambi_h

@LiRE OR she will be returned to the wild to live alongside her 85 year old mother....

Exiliado
Exiliado topcommenter

@orcachic4 Pneumonia that he(it) acquired while under the care of the Free Willy-Keiko Foundation. 

By the way, somebody should bother to add up how much money was spent in Keiko's rescue/snafu.


"Free Willy" and then let him die of pneumonia at a young age. That's some accomplishment. (/sarc)

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