40 Years In Captivity For Lolita

September 2010 marks the 40th anniversary that orca Lolita has been in captivity.

Lolita’s story is particularly sad and highlights the reasons why WDCS believes that it is wrong to keep these animals in captivity.

In 1970 Lolita was swimming with her family in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington. The entire Southern Resident community of orcas was driven into Penn Cove by a capture team who used speedboats, aeroplanes, explosives and nets to scare and trap the orcas. At least four orcas accidentally drowned in the nets, including three infants. Four bodies later washed to shore. They had been cut open, filled with stones and weighed down with steel chains to get them to sink.

Eight orcas were taken into captivity from this horrific capture. Lolita was one of them. In September 1970 Lolita arrived at Miami Seaquarium where she has remained ever since.

She joined Hugo, a male orca captured from the Washington area just two years earlier. He died in 1980 at just 15years old – a juvenile for killer whales. His death was reportedly caused by repeatedly hitting his head against the tank wall.

Miami Seaquarium is the oldest and smallest orca tank in the US and should be illegal. It is the size of a hotel swimming pool. Orcas travel vast distances in the wild and stay with their family groups for life. Lolita lives in the equivalent of a prison cell and is in isolation from the rest of her species. She spends her days lying on the pool surface, swimming repeatedly round her tiny pool and performing tricks to entertain visitors.

In the 1960s and 70s, 35 orcas were taken from Washington State waters for captivity and only Lolita survives. The Southern Resident community of orcas still has not recovered from the captures and their numbers remain low.

WDCS and many groups are calling for Lolita to be retired to a sea pen in her native waters so that she can live her remaining years in the ocean. Go here for more information about Lolita.

WDCS urges everyone to avoid going to attractions that keep captive whales and dolphins to prevent more animals living a life in confinement like Lolita.