The Miami Seaquarium Announced a Plan to Send the Orca Lolita to a Seaside Sanctuary Too Late
Update (September 25, 2023): Following Lolita’s death, her former tankmate, a dolphin named Li’i, has been relocated to SeaWorld San Antonio, where he’s condemned to spending the rest of his life in yet another concrete cell. By violating its promise to send him to a seaside sanctuary, the Miami Seaquarium has failed this long-suffering dolphin, just as it failed Lolita. PETA is urging the Seaquarium to release all the remaining dolphins there to seaside sanctuaries before it’s too late for them, too.
Update (August 23, 2023): After suffering for 53 years in the world’s smallest and oldest orca tank at the Miami Seaquarium, Lolita has died. She didn’t deserve to be abducted from the ocean and torn away from her family. She should never have been confined to a tiny tank, forced to perform, or exploited for profit. Plans to move her to a seaside sanctuary came too late, and she was denied even a minute of freedom to dive deep and feel the ocean’s currents. Now, PETA is urging the Seaquarium to continue with plans to send the dolphin Li’i, Lolita’s former tankmate, to a seaside sanctuary and to do the same for all the other dolphins there—and calling on SeaWorld to send Corky, an orca who has been imprisoned in tiny tanks for nearly 54 years, to a seaside sanctuary before she shares Lolita’s fate.
Update (March 30, 2023): PETA and kind people everywhere have been demanding freedom for Lolita the orca, who has spent more than 50 years in a tiny tank. Now, the Miami Seaquarium has announced that funding has been secured and an agreement has been made to send Lolita to a seaside sanctuary in her home waters within the next 18 to 24 months. This effort is thanks to the generosity of philanthropist Jim Irsay, owner and CEO of the Indianapolis Colts football team. The announcement sends a clear signal to other abusement parks that the days of confining highly intelligent, far-ranging marine mammals to dismal prisons are over.
The global calls to release Lolita the orca from the world’s smallest orca tank, at the Miami Seaquarium, are stronger now than ever, as the park’s failure to provide animals with even the bare minimum necessary for their well-being for decades has come to light.
Lolita (whose given name is Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut) was violently torn away from her family over half a century ago.
She’s the last surviving orca of the more than 30 who were captured off the coast of Washington, and she’s still imprisoned at the Miami Seaquarium while the rest of her pod, including an orca believed to be her mother, swims free.
Lolita hasn’t had any contact with another orca since 1980, when her tankmate, Hugo, died after repeatedly ramming his head into a wall.
A federal inspection report from 2021 revealed a slew of animal welfare violations at the facility, including holding incompatible dolphins together who ended up dying from trauma, forcing Lolita to continue performing tricks that had likely injured her jaw, repeatedly acting against its own veterinarians’ instructions. A newly released inspection report shows that the issues continue: Among other problems, staff reduced dolphins’ food intake by up to 60% to ensure that they stayed hungry while at the same time forcing the emaciated animals to perform even more, causing them to attack trainers and bite the public.
In their natural homes, orcas and other dolphins swim several dozen miles a day and dive to great depths below the surface of their native waters. Holding them captive for our amusement is a form of speciesism—a human-supremacist worldview—and it must end.