Lolita the Orca – Caught, Bought, and Betrayed by the Hertz Family

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  •  Lolita was captured from the wild population of endangered Southern Resident orcas, where her mother and extended family still swim in the Salish Sea.
  • If the sale goes through before she can be legally protected, she could wind up anywhere in the world.
  • Her new potential buyers are in turn owned by a mega-corporation, based in London, which is invested in offshore oil exploration.
  • Contact the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners and express your thoughts.
  • Comment on Lolita’s exclusion from endangered status by midnight 3/28/14.

Lolita's small pool has no cover and no way to escape the noise.
Lolita’s small pool.

Today’s announcement in the Miami Herald that Miami Seaquarium may be sold to a European conglomerate comes as a shock to those who have been following Lolita the whale’s story for decades.
Lolita is a member of the endangered Southern Resident orcas, and was seen in the film Blackfish as she was brutally caught and taken from her family, then sent to live in a small pool at the Miami Seaquarium. Most of her life has been spent without the company of her own species.
Lolita’s owner, Arthur Hertz, CEO of Wometco.

Now she is being sold before NOAA can rule on whether or not Lolita should be given the protections held by her wild family as part of an endangered population (she was purposely excluded from this designation). While many advocates were aware that the deal was in the works, the timing of the announcement coming on the day the comment period closes for the public to express opinions on whether Lolita should be given enhanced protections seems calculated to limit the backlash.

Owner Wometco Enterprises will close the deal and hand over the park after the Miami-Dade County Commission votes on a resolution approving the purchase, which is expected within a couple of months. The Seaquarium leases the land from the county, paying on a fluctuating scale based partly on revenues. In fiscal year 2012-13, the company paid $2.1 million. The lease runs through 2031.
The Seaquarium’s president and general manager, Andrew Hertz, told the Miami Herald on Thursday that talks with the buyer had been underway for more than two years. “We have never offered Miami Seaquarium for sale, period,” said Hertz, whose family owns the park. “In my 18 years here, at least two, three inquiries a year have come in.”
Hertz said Palace Entertainment “came to us and made an offer” that Wometco was willing to consider. He would not disclose terms of the deal.


At first blush it may seem that the financial resources of the purchaser, Palace Entertainment, will help provide Lolita with a better situation than her current cramped conditions. But what will this really mean for Lolita?
(Courtesy Orca Network)
(Courtesy Orca Network)
“We don’t expect the change in ownership to change anything for Lolita”, said Orca Network’s Howard Garrett “She’ll continue to be exploited for entertainment revenues while her attorneys will continue to argue for her protection as a member of her family under the Endangered Species Act, and for her return to the waters where she was born and raised to be a Southern Resident orca.”


The Hertz family seems to feel that the public is as indifferent to Lolita’s future welfare as are they. In 2012, Andrew Hertz remarked to the Miami Herald:
Hertz“Lolita has been part of the Miami Seaquarium family for more than 42 years, and is as active and healthy as ever,” Andrew Hertz told the Herald in 2012. “Lolita will continue to be an ambassador for her species from her home at Miami Seaquarium.”  Arthur Hertz said Tuesday the activists’ objections “are still going on,” but their demands that visitors boycott the Seaquarium had no effect.“The public doesn’t care.” Read more here


If the sale goes through before NOAA reaches a decision on Lolita’s status as an endangered species, she could wind up anywhere. Palace Entertainment owns many amusement parks in the U.S., and has ties worldwide through their parent companies. They will have the financial leverage to do whatever they wish – move Lolita away, build a huge lagoon and force her to live with incompatible animals, or do nothing. Andrew Hertz essentially grew up with Lolita in his life, and I believe the Hertz family will try to safeguard her future…but good luck in standing up to a powerful conglomerate that is not American, and obviously not terribly concerned about the environment.

It is hard to consider, but if she is placed with incompatible whales she would likely wind up with the broken teeth, rake marks, and miserable lifestyle of other captive orcas who are moved from place to place with little consideration.
Even harder to understand is that the Hertz family would choose this option for her rather than give her a chance to live in a sea pen, or to rejoin her family in the wild.
But that’s entertainment.

 Palace Entertainment is the largest family amusement and waterpark operator in the U.S. with 32 parks and over 10 million visitors annually. Palace Entertainment waterparks include; Wet ‘N Wild in Greensboro NC, Raging Waters in San Dimas and San Jose CA, Splish Splash in Riverhead NY, Big Kahuna’s in Destin FL, Water Country in Portsmouth NH, Mountain Creek in Vernon NJ and Wild Waters in Ocala FL. Palace Entertainment also owns Boomers, Castle Park, Silver Springs, Malibu Grand Prix, Mountasia, and Speedzone family entertainment parks in CA, TX, FL, GA, and NY. For more information, visit

(Above, another of Palace Entertainment’s holdings)

But Palace Entertainment is not independent either, it is owned by Parques Reunides which owns the following venues worldwide (as of 2010):

Aqualud (water park), Le Touquet, France
Aquarium of the Lakes (zoo & nature park) Cumbria, UK
Aquópolis (water park), seven centers in Spain
Benalmádena Cable Car, Andalucia, Spain
Big Kahuna’s (water park), Destin, Florida
Blackpool Zoo, Lancashire UK
Bo Sommarland (water park), Bø, Norway
Bobbejaanland, Lichtaart, Belgium
Boomers (family entertainment centers), Locations throughout California, Florida, New York, USA
Bonbon-Land, Holme-Olstrup, Denmark
Bournemouth Oceanarium, Bournemouth UK
Castle Park, Riverside, Calif.
Delfinario Costa Daurada, (zoo & nature park), Spain
Faunia (zoo & nature park), Madrid
Idlewild, East Ligonier, Pennsylvania
Kennywood, East Ligonier, Pennsylvania
L’Oceanogràfic (zoo & nature park), Valencia, Spain
Lake Compounce, Bristol, Connecticut
Madrid Cable Car, Spain
Malibu (family entertainment center), Norcross, Georgia; Redwood City, Calif.; and Houston, USA
Aquarium Mar del Plata, Argentina
Marineland, Antibes, France
Mirabilandia, Ravenna, Italy
Mountain Creek (water park), Vernon, New Jersey
Mountasia (family entertainment center) Marietta, Georgia and Dallas, USA
MoviePark, Bottrop-Kirchhellen, Germany
Parque de Atracciones, Madrid
Parque Warner, Madrid
Raging Waters (water park), Sacramento, San Jose and San Dimas, Calif.
Sandcastle (water park), West Homestead, Pennsylvania
Sea Life Park Hawaii (zoo & nature park), Oahu, Hawaii
Selwo Aventura (zoo & nature park), Estepona, Spain
Selwo Marina (zoo & nature park), Estepona, Spain
Silver Springs (zoo & nature park), Florida, USA
SpeedZone (family entertainment center), Los Angeles and Dallas
Splish Splash (water park), Riverhead, New York
Story Land, Glen, New Hampshire
TusenFryd, Vinterbro, Norway
Water Country (water park), Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Wild Waters (water park), Silver Spring, Florida
Wet ‘n Wild (water park) Greensboro, North Carolina and Orlando
Zoo Aquarium de Madrid, Spain
Parques Reunidos is in turn owned by London-based Arle Capital Partners, whose over two billion dollar company focuses on “major energy players” (oil etc) as can be seen in this graphic from their website.


“Arle Capital Partners is an international private equity manager whose focus is on investing in businesses along the Energy & Natural Resources supply chain.

Our aim is to create market-leading businesses which are attractive to the major energy players.

Arle’s partnership model and extensive industry network enables the firm to source proprietary deals and deploy its expertise with each investment.”

 What can be done?  At this point, the best option is to contact the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners and express your thoughts, and watch for online petitions.  I will update this article when more information is available.

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