For the past 45 years, a 22-foot-long orca named Lolita has spent her life living in the smallest whale enclosure in North America. Measuring only 60-by-80-feet in width and 20-feet deep, her pen at the Miami Seaquarium is little more than a glorified bathtub for a mammal that normally travels over 75 miles a day.
In an effort to bring the oft-repeated bathtub analogy to life and raise awareness for orcas in captivity everywhere, activist Danielle Daals will shortly start a one-month-long protest outside the Miami Seaquarium in an actual bathtub. With the support of the locally based animal advocacy group Animal Activists Network (AACTN), the 29-year-old New Zealander will reside in her personal tub from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., leaving only to use the bathroom and sleep.
"By embarking on this challenge, I will experience the same feelings of captivity, separation from my family, boredom and stress that Lolita endures every day," Daals shares on her GoFundMe page. "I don't believe anything like this has ever been done before and I'm hoping it will bring worldwide attention to Lolita's suffering."
Daals' stunt comes as support for ending captive orca programs is at an all-time high. In Lolita's case, there have been some promising developments — from endangered species protection to a recent ban on trainers swimming with her during shows. Each time, however, Seaquarium officials have remained obstinate to doing anything to help what many have nicknamed "the world's loneliest orca."
"Lolita will continue to receive the same care, stimulation and attention that she has for nearly 45 years," the park said in a statement last year. "She will continue to be an ambassador for her species from her home at Miami Seaquarium."
As part of her protest from the tub, Daals will raise awareness for the Orca Conservancy and the group's campaign to retire Lolita to a sea pen — and possibly, the wild. The extensive action plan calls for the Southern resident killer whale to be carried in a military transport plane to a location in Neah Bay, Washington. Under the guidance of veterinarians, pathologists and marine mammal scientists, efforts would be made to slowly reintroduce Lolita to her ocean habitat — and possibly reconnect her with a pod of local killer whales.
“I would like to tell Miamians to please support Lolita’s retirement and please spread the word of this demonstration for Lolita," Daals told the Miami New Times. "Never give up fighting for her, even when it feels like a never-ending uphill battle. Orca Conservancy has a very viable retirement plan in place for Lolita should she be retired, so the only thing standing in her way of happiness and freedom is Palace Entertainment [the owner of the Miami Seaquarium]."