FEDS AGREE TO RECONSIDER PLIGHT OF ORCA AT MIAMI SEAQUARIUM
Lawsuit Means Government Must Protect Deprived Orca Under Endangered Species Act or Supply a Legal Reason Why Not to Do So
October 12, 2012
MIAMI — Following a lawsuit filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and PETA, the National Marine Fisheries Service has agreed to reconsider its exclusion of the orca Lolita from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing of the Southern Resident orcas—the family from which she was taken more than 40 years ago. While endangered listings are to include captive members of a species by default, Lolita—who is confined to the smallest orca tank in North America at the Miami Seaquarium—was unlawfully excluded without explanation, allowing the Seaquarium to hold her in conditions that harm and harass her and that would otherwise violate the ESA. Pursuant to the agreement, ALDF and PETA will submit a new petition for Lolita to be included in the listing with her family, and the agency must, within specified time periods, decide whether her listing is warranted based solely on the biological status of the Pacific Northwest’s Southern Resident orcas. The filing of the original lawsuit was handled by the law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.
“Under the Endangered Species Act, no one can harm or harass Southern Resident orcas—yet that is precisely what Lolita, a Southern Resident orca, is experiencing in the smallest orca tank on the continent,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “The government must now extend to Lolita the same protection offered to her family in the wild and reunite her with her pod, whose calls she recognized when they were played to her even after decades in captivity.”
“This important step means that the National Marine Fisheries Service must hold to the legally required timeframes that the agency often ignores and cannot let ALDF’s and PETA’s petition to secure Lolita the protection to which she is entitled languish indefinitely,” says Carter Dillard, ALDF’s director of litigation.
ALDF and PETA want Lolita to be released into a seaside sanctuary that is waiting for her in her home waters and, if possible, back into her family pod in the Pacific Northwest. In the wild, female orcas spend their entire lives with their mothers, and Lolita’s mother is still thriving at more than 80 years of age.
For more information, please visit ALDF.org and PETA’s blog .