For years, advocates have been working to get Lolita released. The 7,000-pound whale has spent more than 35 years alone in the smallest orca tank in North America, ever since she was captured at the age of four from the waters of Washington's Puget Sound.
The newest effort to draw attention to her plight is a series of protests starting this Saturday, May 9, at all Palace Entertainment locations nationwide — including the Miami Seaquarium.
Dubbed the Shut Down Palace Campaign, this effort is being spearheaded by advocates Wendy King and Robin Jewell Roberts (Miracle March to Protect the Captive founder and President). Roberts led a massive Seaquarium protest this January that earned international media attention.
The size of Lolita's tank (which is below national standards), her lack of protection from the hot sun and her total isolation from other orcas led the Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, Orca Network and private citizens to file a lawsuit against the USDA.
In addition, in February of this year, the NOAA designated Lolita as “endangered”, due to her origin as is part of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population of Washington state.
"Orca whales are highly intelligent and social beings," explains King. "There is overwhelming evidence which shows captivity is devastating to orcas in particular. In captivity they suffer extreme anxiety, medical problems unheard of in the wild and severely shortened life spans. There is no reason Lolita should continue suffering at the Miami Seaquarium when the Orca Network has a safe and responsible retirement plan in place for her. A coastal sanctuary and her mother are waiting for her in her home waters, we just need Palace Entertainment to let her go."
Thus far, 150 people are signed up to attend through the Shut Down Palace Miami event page and emails alone, and organizers are expecting even more to participate.
"People joining us can expect peaceful demonstrations with friendly, like minded people who just want to see Lolita retired and reunited with her family," says King.
Demonstrations will take place on Saturday, May 9, in seven locations owned by Palace Entertainment. Miami's protest will take place from noon to 2 p.m. at the Miami Seaquarium, 4400 Rickenbacker Cswy. Participants are asked to meet on the sidewalk outside of the Seaquarium's front entrance.