Despite the endangered-species status of the southern resident orcas, the federal government is refusing to offer imprisoned orca Lolita the same protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that the rest of her family pod enjoys.

Legal Hypocrisy

You may recall that the National Marine Fisheries Service classified Washington state’s southern resident orca population as endangered, giving it protection from being harmed or harassed under the ESA, but without explanation, it excluded Lolita, who was captured from the pod as a calf and has been held prisoner and forced to perform for the last 42 years. PETA called foul on the unlawful double standard and filed suit on Lolita’s behalf, joined by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Washington residents, and a former employee of theMiami Seaquarium, where Lolita is held captive.

Legal Runaround

The Miami Seaquarium and the federal government filed motions to get the case dismissed, and the judge acquiesced on timing grounds—he didn’t address the merits of the case—meaning that the Miami Seaquarium can continue to confine Lolita to the smallest orca tank in North America (the orca equivalent of a bathtub), prevent her from interacting with any members of her own species, deny her appropriate protection from the sun, and force her to perform silly tricks. But PETA and the ALDF are already regrouping and planning our next move, and the lawsuit’s dismissal is merely a hitch in our efforts to see Lolita released into a seaside sanctuary in her home waters.

You Can Help

Please send a polite e-mail to Eric C. Schwabb, assistant administrator for fisheries, urging him to give Lolita her rightful protection under the ESA.