Success: Animal Advocacy Groups Sue for Orca’s Freedom

Target: Stephen Wells, Executive Director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund

Goal: Applaud the efforts of animal advocacy groups to free captive orca.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), along with the Orca Network and PETA, have sued the US Department of Agriculture in an effort to free the captive orca Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium. Lolita has been in captivity for 46 years and alone for 36. Her fellow orca Hugo died in 1980 and was never replaced. Her tank is the smallest in the nation. Due to the efforts of advocacy groups fighting for her liberty, including ForceChange, Lolita may finally be freed. Praise ALDF for leading the charge to free this orca.

Remaining in captivity could cause Lolita serious health problems. She has no protection from the sun, which could cause damage to her skin. Furthermore, orcas are highly social. They live together in family groups revolving around a matriarch. Keeping an orca away from others of its kind is cruel. In the 1970s, Lolita and her mother were separated by a roundup that left five members of her pod dead and seven captured. Of those seven, only Lolita is still alive.

The Miami Seaquarium’s claim to hold Lolita is legally dubious. In 2014, the seaquarium was purchased by Palace Entertainment, which took out a new license to keep her. Animal advocacy groups are now challenging the US Department of Agriculture’s decision to issue that license. At 80 feet long, 35 feet wide, the tank where Lolita is kept is too small to be legal. It is a violation the Animal Welfare Act, which is designed to ensure a minimum standard of living for animals in captivity. In addition, the fellow members of her pod were designated an endangered species in 2005. The Endangered Species Act makes it illegal to “remove and reduce to possession any such species from areas under Federal jurisdiction.”

Applaud the work of advocacy groups such as ALDF for their efforts to free Lolita and enforce this country’s animal protection laws. It is a travesty that Lolita is still in captivity, but it is a blessing that she has such dedicated supporters fighting on her behalf.


Dear Mr. Wells,

I would like to thank you for your efforts on behalf of the captive orca Lolita. The conditions under which she is kept are both inhumane and illegal. She deserves to be reunited with her pod and I’d like to express my gratitude to you for trying to make that happen.

It is appalling that Palace Entertainment was issued another license to keep her, even after holding her in a miniscule tank with no other orcas. The tank they hold her in is the smallest in the U.S. This tank also has no weather protection and she is constantly exposed to the bright sun, which may have caused her skin to crack and bleed. In addition, orcas are social animals and keeping one away from other members of its species is callous at best. The other members of Lolita’s pod are still out there, waiting to for her to come home.

The people who captured her 46 years ago did a great wrong, killing five members of her pod and delivering her into a lifetime of imprisonment. Our thanks go out to you for trying to right that wrong.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Xurble

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  1. That’s all very nice but when us she going to be free. Can she be free. Why does it take so long?

    • Because she is considered ‘property’ and these companies will fight to keep her so they can make more money. It’s horrible really.

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