[Many thanks to Teo Freytes for bringing this item to our attention.] Jonathan Kendall (Miami New Times) writes about the growing outrage surrounding Lolita the orca’s continued captivity in the Miami Seaquarium. He stresses that there are fewer than 80 of these orcas left in the world. Here are excerpts:
During the 1960s and ’70s, nearly an entire generation of orca juveniles were corralled, separated from their protective mothers, and sent to oceanariums across the United States. According to NOAA Fisheries, this capture of nearly 50 Southern Residents had a direct impact on the wild pod’s population. Today the animals are classified as endangered.
All but one of those captured orcas have died in tanks where they performed tricks for park guests. Miami Seaquarium’s Lolita, originally named “Tokitae” (Coast Salish for “sparkling waters”) is the last surviving Southern Resident killer whale in captivity. When she arrived at the marine park in 1970, Hugo, a male orca at the Seaquarium, kept her company. Reportedly, they would communicate with each other through a language of clicks and whistles. [. . .] However, in 1980, Hugo died after injuring himself along the walls of the tank where Lolita still swims. His remains rest in a Miami-Dade landfill.
Fearing Lolita will suffer the same fate, animal activists have called for her retirement from entertaining, particularly because she lives in the smallest orca tank in the nation, an enclosure that even government agencies cannot seem to agree meets federal space requirements to house a killer whale.
Even if the tank unquestionably met the minimum space standards, activists say the Animal Welfare Act is an artifact of the ’60s, a time when many people still did not know much about orcas — particularly that they swim huge stretches each day. Whales travel about the distance between Miami and Naples.
The issue of her captivity has become headline news around the world. Since documentary Blackfish was released in 2013, the chorus of activists urging Lolita’s retirement from being exhibited at the Seaquarium has grown louder. Now the choir includes many local celebrities. In 2015, model Daisy Fuentes, former Deco Drive host Louis Aguirre, and billionaire real-estate developer Jorge Pérez were among locals who publicly condemned the Seaquarium’s continued captivity of “sweet” Lolita in the controversial tank. The growing list of celebrities now includes Jessica Biel, Wilmer Valderrama, and Bob Barker, who have all spoken out against the Seaquarium, calling it an “abusement park” for holding Lolita and other marine mammals in captivity.
[. . .] Another star taking a stand against the local marine park is the Latina actor Kate del Castillo. [. . .] Just as summer begins, her message urges people to boycott the Seaquarium: “Lolita’s story is particularly tragic and poignant to me because I come from a tight-knit family. And so does she. Orca families spend their entire lives together. Lolita should have spent her life with her mother and aunts and siblings. But instead, she has spent 46 long and totally miserable years stuck inside the world’s smallest orca tank at the Miami Seaquarium,” del Castillo said in a statement. “She is there right now, doing the only thing she can do: float in place or swim in a tiny circle, never to have the company of another orca.” [. . .]