The "world's loneliest orca" is about to have a few less guests in her tiny enclosure.
Lolita, a wild-caught killer whale that has spent nearly 45 years in the smallest orca tank in the United States, will no longer perform with her trainers. The move by the Miami Seaquarium this week came after a ruling last summer by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) asking the marine park to ban trainers from swimming with the 22-foot-long orca during shows.
This latest announcement follows another decision in February by NOAA, which determined that Lolita, a Southern resident killer whale, deserved the same protected status as her wild kin under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
"The handwriting was on the wall: Had the Seaquarium continued to expose trainers to the danger of direct contact with orcas, it could well have followed in SeaWorld's footsteps with the loss of human life by deeply frustrated captive marine mammals," Jared Goodman, the director of animal law for PETA, said in a statement.
While Lolita will no longer be subjected to trainers surfing her back during performances, she still faces life in the same 60-by-80-feet enclosure that is only 20 feet deep. Efforts over the years to convince the Seaquarium to expand her enclosure or consider transferring the orca to a coastal sanctuary have not been well-received.
"Lolita is healthy and thriving in her home where she shares habitat with Pacific white-sided dolphins," Seaquarium's General Manager Andrew Hertz said in a statement. "There is no scientific evidence that ... Lolita could survive in a sea pen or the open waters of the Pacific Northwest, and we are not willing to treat her life as an experiment."
Until Lolita is given the life she deserves, Goodman urges everyone to avoid visiting the Miami Seaquarium.
"Even with this ruling, Lolita remains alone in the smallest orca tank in the U.S., and PETA urges people to boycott the Miami Seaquarium until it releases Lolita to a seaside sanctuary where she would be reunited with family and the feel of the ocean's currents," he said.
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