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Miami Seaquarium To Be Sued Over Violating the ESA For Orca Cruelty

A press release originally from Animal Legal Defense Fund states:

For immediate release:

Contact: Megan Backus, ALDF David Pearle, PETA

MIAMI — PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Orca Network, and two individuals sent a letter this morning to the Miami Seaquarium—where Lolita the orca is being held without the company of any others of her kind and imprisoned in a cramped tank with no protection from the hot sun—notifying the business of their intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Thanks to a successful petition filed by the coalition and others, Lolita was officially granted the same protection under the ESA as the rest of her family in the wild. The letter contends that Lolita’s imprisonment at the Seaquarium is an unlawful “take” (that is, that she is being harmed, harassed, and/or wounded) in violation of the ESA.

“Lolita has already endured more than 40 years of miserable confinement, with devastating consequences for her well-being,” says PETA Foundation Director of Animal Law Jared Goodman. “PETA is taking action to ensure that this facility’s blatant disregard for her welfare and apparent violation of the law do not cost her more time in a tiny concrete tank.”

“For too long, Lolita has suffered pathetic and illegal conditions at the Miami Seaquarium,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “ALDF intends to see that this facility’s failure to comply with the law, and the harms they’ve caused her, is swiftly corrected by the courts.”

Since 1970, Lolita has been unable to swim more than a tiny fraction of the 100 miles a day she might cover in the wild. Lolita’s tiny tank offers no protection from the sun—which, according to a former caretaker, has caused her skin to crack and bleed. PETA, ALDF, Orca Network, and countless concerned advocates have pushed for years for Lolita to be retired from performing and transferred to a seaside sanctuary that’s waiting for her in her home waters off Washington’s San Juan Islands, where she could interact with her family pod. In the wild, Southern Resident orcas often spend their entire lives with their mothers. Lolita appeared to recognize her pod’s calls decades after being captured, and the orca believed to be her mother—who’s estimated to be about 86 years old—is still thriving.

Lolita's endangered status goes into effect today. This means that protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act will now apply to her. One of those protections is that endangered animals cannot be "harassed."

Today, an official from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told New Times that riding Lolita — as trainers do in their shows — counts as harassment.

Connie Barclay, a spokesperson for NOAA, pointed out that the public is prohibited from engaging in activities known "take" with endangered animals. "Take" includes harassing them.

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