Lolita was taken from the waters off the coast of Washington State on August 8, 1970, and has been living in isolation in a 35 foot wide and 20 foot deep tank at the Miami Seaquarium ever since.
The Miami Seaquarium
has been telling the government for more than 20 years that her tank–which is illegal by government standards—will be rebuilt to meet government specifications. They’ve not done it.
Lolita is housed alone.
She lacks protection from weather and direct sunlight. She is not given toys or non-food items to help alleviate her boredom. Her owner, Arthur Hertz of Wometco Enterprises, was offered $1 million 10 years ago for Lolita’s release. He refused. At that time it was estimated Lolita had earned Hertz $160 million. He paid $6,000 for her in 1970. The Orca Network knows where Lolita’s pod—including her mother (believed to be in her eighties), siblings, and other family members—live. Experts believe Lolita could gradually be reintroduced to her family, and potentially breed.
A special Animals & Society Institute Diary written by ASI colleague psychologist Suzanne McAllister.
DECEMBER 2012. Last weekend I traveled to Florida to see Lolita to witness her conditions first hand. This is what I saw. Visitors to the Seaquarium ($40 entrance fee) are kept away from her tank until show time. There are solid metal gates at both entrances to the stadium that are closed until visitors are allowed into the stadium to watch the show. When I arrived, Lolita was being squirted with water by some trainers (below). She appeared to enjoy the massaging quality of the water stream.
Once the visitors were seated in the viewing area (which was approximately half full on a Sunday) the 20-minute show began. Lolita gets fed if she performs. She is in a tank with five dolphins, whom she appears to ignore, and who appear disinterested in her. Part of the show is watching the dolphins do tricks (for food), and part is watching Lolita (the star!) allow the trainer to sit on her back or be lifted out of the water on her rostrum (nose) and flop in the water to create a spray (crowd pleaser).
When the show is over, visitors are escorted out of the stadium, and the gates are closed until the next show. I watched Lolita while the visitors exited the stadium. She swam to one side of the tank and rested motionlessly at an angle in the water (depending on where she is in the tank, her tail rests on the bottom). Typically, whales swim 75-100 miles a day. I don’t know how many times a day Lolita would need to swim around her tank to match that distance.
There is a court case pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to have Lolita covered under the provisions of the U. S. Endangered Species Act. The case was brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, and several individuals, including a former trainer. You can contact the Miami Seaquarium, Arthur Hertz, the USDA/APHIS, and the Secretary of Agriculture, to let them know it’s time for Lolita to be retired and returned to her home waters.
Source: Animals & Society Institute.
Read David Kirby’s book Death at SeaWorld, published in 2012. An excellent primer on the marine display industry.