Retire Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium, rehabilitate her in Puget Sound.

  • by: Every individual worldwide
  • target: Betty Goldentyer, D.V.M., Eastern Regional Director, USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service


Lolita was brutally captured from her family in 1970 in Puget Sound in Washington State. During her capture, five members of her family died trying to escape the nets or reach their calves. Lolita was transported to the Miami Seaquarium on August 8, 1970. There she was reunited with a young male member of her pod, Hugo, who had been caught in 1968. They were eventually both placed in the smallest orca tank in North America. Unfortunately, when Hugo began to mature into a large male, he repeatedly bashed his head against the tank walls and windows until he died of a brain aneurism in 1980. Since the death of Hugo, Lolita has been without the company of another orca.

August 8, 2011, will mark the 41st year of Lolita being kept at the Miami Seaquarium living in an inhumanely and illegally undersized tank according to the Animal Welfare Act. Lolita is currently 22 feet long and over 6,000 pounds; her tank is incredibly confining for a mammal this size. Orcas are highly intelligent and social marine mammals that typically swim 75-100 miles a day and repeatedly dive to several hundred feet. Lolita is alone and cannot swim any distance except in tight circles in a pool that is not as deep as she is long.

Lolita was captured in Puget Sound from the Southern Resident community of orcas, which is the most intensively and comprehensively researched cetacean population worldwide. She is a member of the L pod, and her mother is still alive. This orca community has intense, lifelong matriarchal bonds; the orcas never leave their mothers, forming large family groups with complex social systems. Lolita continues to make the unique calls of her L25 subpod, named for its 82-year-old matriarch. Her family pod still swims freely in the open waters of Puget Sound. Because Lolita was old enough at capture to catch fish and still speaks her pod dialect, there is every reason to believe that she can be successfully reintegrated with her family in Puget Sound. And although at age 42 she is the oldest surviving captive orca, she is still a young, healthy adult; in the wild her potential lifespan will be much longer than it will be in captivity.

For these reasons, the Orca Network, with the assistance of the Center for Whale Research, has proposed a plan to retire Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium, reintroduce her to Puget Sound, and reintegrate her with her family. Lolita will be transported to an ocean sea pen in a protected San Juan Island cove that offers both abundant salmon and immediate access to her family pod. The bolts to hold her sea pen nets are already installed in this cove. She will be fed and taken care of by humans while being reacclimated to life in the wild with supervised open-water swimming and interaction with her pod and extended family. If she decides to rejoin her pod, that will be the ideal outcome; if not, she will be lovingly cared for by humans while living the rest of her life in a natural environment with plenty of room to forage and play.

The owners of the Miami Seaquarium have been begged for decades to release Lolita to whale scientists who can reacclimate her to Puget Sound and reunite her with her family. The Seaquarium owners have adamantly refused to consider this. Instead they have kept her alone in her tiny pool, where most of her time is spent floating listlessly with no social interaction.

Please sign this petition to urge the federal government to shut down the Miami Seaquarium orca show and insist that the owners retire Lolita and release her to those who are ready to bring her home to Puget Sound.

Dear Dr. Goldentyer:

We, the undersigned, strongly urge you to use the power at your disposal to return Lolita, the orca whale residing in the Miami Seaquarium, to her native Puget Sound waters. As you are surely aware, she has been residing since her capture in 1970 in the Miami Seaquarium in what cetacean experts consider substandard conditions.

August 8, 2011, will mark the 41st year of Lolita being kept at the Miami Seaquarium living in an inhumanely and illegally undersized tank according to the Animal Welfare Act and APHIS standards. Lolita is currently 22 feet long and over 6,000 pounds; her tank, which is the smallest orca tank in North America, is incredibly confining for a mammal this size. Orcas are highly intelligent and social marine mammals that typically swim 75-100 miles a day and repeatedly dive to several hundred feet. Lolita is alone and cannot swim any distance except in tight circles in a pool that is not as deep as she is long.

Lolita was captured in Puget Sound from the Southern Resident community of orcas, which is the most intensively and comprehensively researched cetacean population worldwide. She is a member of the L pod, and her mother is still alive. This orca community has intense, lifelong matriarchal bonds; the orcas never leave their mothers, forming large family groups with complex social systems. Lolita continues to make the unique calls of her L25 subpod, named for its 82-year-old matriarch. Her family pod still lives in Puget Sound. Because Lolita was old enough at capture to catch fish and still speaks her pod dialect, there is every reason to believe that she can be successfully reintegrated with her family in Puget Sound. And although at  age 42 she is the oldest surviving captive orca, she is still a young, healthy adult; in the wild her potential lifespan will be much longer than it will be in captivity.

For these reasons, the Orca Network, with the assistance of the Center for Whale Research, has proposed a plan to retire Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium, reintroduce her to Puget Sound, and reintegrate her with her family. Lolita will be transported to an ocean sea pen in a protected San Juan Island cove that offers both abundant salmon and immediate access to her family pod. The bolts to hold her sea pen nets are already installed in this cove. She will be fed and taken care of by humans while being reacclimated to life in the wild with supervised open-water swimming and interaction with her pod and extended family. If she decides to rejoin her pod, that will be the ideal outcome; if not, she will be lovingly cared for by humans while living the rest of her life in a natural environment with plenty of room to forage and play.

Dr. Goldentyer, the owners of the Miami Seaquarium have been begged for decades to release Lolita to whale scientists who can reacclimate her to Puget Sound and reunite her with her family. The Seaquarium owners have adamantly refused to consider this. Instead they have kept her alone in her tiny pool, where most of her time is spent floating listlessly with no social interaction.

Please, Dr. Goldentyer, shut down the Miami Seaquarium orca show and insist that the owners retire Lolita and release her to those who are ready to bring her home to Puget Sound.

We thank you for your time and consideration. If there is anything additional you think we could do to help resolve this situation, please don't hesitate to contact the Orca Network at (360)678-3451 or info@orcanetwork.org. They would be delighted to talk to you at any time. Thank you, and we hope you will contact the Orca Network soon to learn more about how Lolita can be safely retired to Puget Sound with her family.

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