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The show is over for captive orca Lolita

Lolita the orca

Lolita, the orca, held at the Miami Seaquarium in Florida since 1970, will no longer perform in shows at the theme park.

New managers at the Florida facility have announced that Lolita, also known to many as Tokitae, and thought to be around 56 years old, will be retired from performances in the stadium tank.

MS Leisure, a subsidiary of The Dolphin Company, a Mexico-based theme-park operator, recently announced it is assuming management of Seaquarium and stated that it will not ‘exhibit’ Lolita and her Pacific white-sided dolphin companion Lii in the Stadium, nor will the stadium be accessible to the public.

Lolita’s retirement form preforming for so-called ‘entertainment’ is welcome news but her story is a sad one. Held captive in a small tank for over 50 years (and alone for 42 of them), her life has been far from the one she would have led if free in the ocean.

Her regular daily shows were stopped recently after the Florida facility where she lives in a 20-foot-deep tank was closed for repairs following and inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which cited numerous maintenance, water quality and animal welfare problems.

Lolita is included on the endangered species listing for the Southern resident population of orcas living off the north-west coast of the US. She was taken from this population in 1970 during the cruel and infamous Penn Cove captures, which resulted in several orca deaths. Lolita is the second longest surviving orca in captivity after Corky.

‘The shows are finally over but what next for Lolita?’ says WDC anti captivity campaign Rob Lott. ‘We welcome this positive move but the fact remains that she continues to languish in the world’s smallest orca tank. Lolita has made millions for Miami Seaquarium over the decades and now she will longer be a part of this lucrative business model we urge the park’s new owners to engage with US animal welfare organisations and focus only on what is in Lolita’s best interests and explore all options, including retirement to a coastal sanctuary, that offer her a brighter future. Surely, after a half century performing for our ‘entertainment’, it’s the least she deserves.’

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