Let’s remember Lolita, the orca held in captivity for 50 years who died just before her release

I would like to remember Lolita, the orca held in captivity for 50 years. She was due to be released into the ocean but instead she suddenly passed away. She never saw the ocean again. Her birthright, her habitat, her place to live from where she was stolen to be held captive in a large pool at Miami Seaquarium.

Lolita. Image in the public domain.

Frankly, it is utterly cruel to keep these very large marine creatures in tiny spaces for so long. These animals have very long lives. Lolita was captured when she was only about four years of age off Seattle’s coast.

She ended up being the oldest and longest-held captive orca. Federal inspections of Miami Seaquarium, found many ongoing violations and animal care deficits including:

  • Ignoring veterinary recommendations for sick animals
  • disrepair of animal housing facilities
  • chronic eye conditions due to an old and poor-quality life-support system
  • whales with chlorine injury
  • serious injuries over the last several years, some involving death.

That information comes from Nathan Winograd in an email to me. I will add some detail from the NPR website.

Lolita died several months after the Miami Seaquarium announced plans to release her back to her native ocean waters.

Lolita was believed to be 57 years old. She was displaying signs of discomfort in being held captive for so long. She was given medical treatment but she died on Friday afternoon due to what they believe to be a renal condition according to Miami Seaquarium.

The aquarium was closed on Saturday for the staff to mourn the loss of Lolita. The facility said that, “Those who have had the privilege to spend time with her will forever remember her beautiful spirit”. Hollow words from a business which kept her captive for so long and so cruelly.

NPR requested a comment from Seaquarium but they failed to respond.

Lolita was the star attraction at the facility and performed twice daily until she was retired in 2022.

Female orcas normally live to about 50 years but they can live up to 90 years of age in the wild.

Miami Seaquarium had been under pressure for a very long time to return her to the wild where she could spend her final days. But despite the pressure she remained at the facility until it was too late.

The Dolphin Company owns Miami Seaquarium. They had planned to release her to the wild sometime between October 2024 and April 2025. Comment: in my view, all these Seaquarium facilities and businesses should be shut down in the interests of animal welfare.

Eduardo Albor, the CEO of the Dolphin Company said that he was heartbroken. He said that it was love at first sight when he saw Lolita. Funny that: you love an animal and then you treat that animal poorly and abuse that animal and exploit that animal for many years. More hollow words.

Perhaps the legacy of Lolita will be that she brought to the attention of millions of people the cruelty of these businesses in holding captive killer whales in relatively small containers and I hope that the cruel timing of her death will emphasise the need to close them down.

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Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful

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