Miami Seaquarium describes themselves:
On a 38-acre tropical paradise with spectacular skyline views, lies a South Florida attraction like no other. Welcome to Miami Seaquarium®, where conservation and education go hand in hand, sea lions delight children of all age, and endangered sea turtles and manatees find a safe haven. Enjoy a world-class marine-life entertainment park with a variety of fun things to do in Miami, South Florida. From eight different marine animal shows, astonishing daily presentations, and a variety of educational tidbits along the way, Miami Seaquarium® is a place of inspiration, education - and fun!
The reality looks different: this is NO FUN FOR ANIMALS
Animal advocates have been arguing for years that Lolita, the lone orca at the Miami Seaquarium, has spent decades living in a tank that’s far too small for her.
Lolita was once a wild and free member of the southern resident killer whales in the Pacific Northwest, but she was taken for public display in the notoriously brutal roundups that took place in the 1970s.
She has since spent almost 50 years at the Miami Seaquarium in the oldest and smallest tank in North America.
The area she’s seen swimming in is 80 feet wide with 35 feet between the outer wall and the island barrier in the middle. She herself is long enough to stretch the full depth of the tank if she floats vertically. Not only does the tank just look too small for her, her advocates have continued to argue that it’s illegally small under the USDA’s standards for minimum size under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
Life in an oceanarium, which is both a marine park and an aquarium used to house animals for study or display, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for the animals that live there though. They’re taken from the wild or bred in captivity, kept in confined spaces, often deprived of the company of their own species, and trained to put on show after show for screaming audiences. Sure, the place may actually do some real conservation work, but is the price of endangering the performing animals in the park worth it? This is the question at the heart of the Miami Seaquarium and when we take a look at their practices it seems pretty clear that the answer is, no.
WE URGE THE Miami Seaquarium : RELEASE LOLITA AND ALL ANIMALS TO A SEA SANCTUARY!
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Some of the animals have been taken directly from the wild in order to be put on display, the most famous example of which being the orca, Lolita. Captured and removed from her pod in Puget Sound in 1970, she’s been performing in captivity ever since with her remaining family members still swimming the waters around Washington State.
Conditions at the Miami Seaquarium are less than ideal for the cetaceans housed there. Cetaceans are an order of mammal that includes the highly intelligent and social whales, dolphins and porpoises.
At Miami Seaquarium, the orca tank is the smallest in the northern hemisphere. At one time, there were two orca named Hugo and Lolita who shared it for performances. Hugo died of self-inflicted injuries sustained from ramming the walls of his tiny tank repeatedly, causing an aneurysm. Though there’s no way to know if this was done with the intent to harm himself, Ric O’Barry, Hugo’s former trainer and the trainer to many of the dolphins at Miami Seaquarium in the 1960’s, feels it was.
“Hugo would smash his head against the tank at the Miami Seaquarium where I was training him to become a circus clown. He died in his sub-standard tank of an aneurysm. Did his new concrete habitat cause him to become psychotic and suicidal? I think so. Why else would he continually crash his head into the walls of the tiny concrete tank?” O’Barry went on to say, “I realized back then that orcas do not belong in captivity. It was so obvious.”
Both PeTA and the Animal League Defense Fund (ALDF) filed suit against the USDA for it’s continued licensure of Miami Seaquarium, despite its numerous Animal Welfare Act violations. and against the National Marine Fisheries Service for excluding Lolita from protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The ALDF also filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when footage ,taken in May 2014, at the park showed trainers continuing to get into the water with Lolita. In the aftermath of Dawn Brancheau’s death at SeaWorld, when she was dragged under the water by a whale named Tilikum, getting into the water with captive orca has been considered a hazard and is no longer allowed. Miami Seaquarium continued the practice anyway, and was fined $7000 as a result of the continued practice.
Orca are very social creatures that travel in family units, called pods. These pods are often comprised of three generations and led by a female matriarch. In the case of captive whales, they have been removed from their pod or born into captivity. Orca are the only known species that stay with their parents and siblings forever, never voluntarily leaving their family. The luckier of captive orca have another whale or two to socialize with, but there are several cases of orca being left alone for years much like Lolita, or Shouka when she was at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.