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Activists to Stage Nationwide Protests Against Company Holding Lolita Captive

May 5, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

On May 9th and May 23rd, animal rights activists will stage protests in nine states at theme parks owned by Palace Entertainment, the company that operates the Miami Seaquarium, where the orca Lolita has been held captive for 45 years in the nation’s smallest killer whale tank. Palace, which owns 32 amusement and waterparks nationwide, purchased the Miami Seaquarium in 2014.


Lolita has lived in the nation’s smallest killer whale pool since 1970

Lolita was kidnapped from her pod off the coast of Washington state in 1970. For the first 10 years, she had a killer whale companion, Hugo, who reportedly committed suicide by pounding his head against the side of the tank. Since 1980, she has been alone, unable to interact with members of her own species or engage in any natural behaviors, such as hunting, diving and swimming in the open water. Her tank is just 20 feet deep.

"Please take me home. I don't belong in a pool."

Lolita is 20′ long. Her tank is 20′ deep.

Lolita’s captivity is not just cruel; it is illegal. In fact, Palace Entertainment is violating the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in three ways. Lolita’s tank doesn’t meet minimum size requirements; she has no shade to protect her from Florida’s searing sun; and she does not have a killer whale companion.

In February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designated Lolita as endangered because she was taken from the protected Southern Resident Killer Whale population. This historic decision has provided legal ammunition to the groups that are suing the USDA for renewing Palace’s license in spite of its AWA violations.

photo: Matthew Hoelscher

Animal exploitation (photo: Matthew Hoelscher)

Palace Entertainment has been steadfast in its opposition to releasing Lolita to a seaside pen. In an effort to keep their biggest money maker, Seaquarium spokesperson Robert Rose tells the press that Lolita will die if she is released into the ocean. Advocates, on the other hand, assert that a coastal sanctuary would finally give her the opportunity to live — providing her with space to swim, communicate with her pod; receive rehabilitation; and be released if she is deemed capable of surviving in the wild.

The May 9th protests, organized by the group Shut Down Palace, will take place at Palace’s theme parks in Florida, Georgia, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh & Lancaster) and California.  On May 23rd, a second wave of protests will take place at Palace parks in New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

For Lolita, the Miami Seaquarium is a prison, not a palace (photo: Shut Down Palace)

For Lolita, the Miami Seaquarium is a prison, not a palace (photo: Shut Down Palace)

The #ShutDownPalace protests are not the first major effort to liberate Lolita. In January, over 1,500 activists from around the world descended upon Miami to participate in the “Miracle March for Lolita.” In a rousing speech after the march, Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnchained told the crowd to “get the police tape” because the Miami Sequarium is a “crime scene.”

Miracle March for Lolita at Miami Seaquarium

Miracle March for Lolita on January 17, 2015 (photo: Christina Estrada)

Filed under: Entertainment, WIldlife
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Fate of Thousands of Monkeys in the Hands of Florida Judge

March 2, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

The duplicitous officials of Hendry County, Florida almost pulled it off — green lighting a 32 acre monkey breeding facility without informing the community or holding a public hearing, which is required by the state’s “Sunshine Law.”

But, in November, 2014, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) stepped in and filed a lawsuit after learning about Hendry’s underhanded and illegal maneuver. The plaintiffs, Hendry County residents, argue that they were denied their legal right to publicly comment on a facility that, if built, would house thousands of exotic animals who could potentially escape and/or spread disease before being shipped to laboratories around the country.

primate, Frik, with a device on his head in a cage

Lab monkey (photo: PETA)

Hendry County has asked the court to dismiss ALDF’s case on the grounds that the Florida’s Sunshine Law does not mandate public hearings for the approval of “agricultural” facilities. But ALDF asserts that monkeys are wild, not agricultural, animals. On Thursday, a Hendry County judge will hear arguments from both sides at a court hearing that is open to the public. In the meantime, Jane Velez-Mitchell breaks down the issues in this JaneUnchained exclusive:

The hearing will take place just one week after PETA made the shocking announcement that the number of animals being used each year in federally-funded labs rose from approximately 75,000 in 1997 to to 129,000 in 2012.

Your Turn

If you live in Florida, please consider attending a rally that will held in conjunction with the hearing. Jane Velez-Mitchell will be there to report on the hearing and the rally.

For more details about the lawsuit, please see Lawsuit Claims Florida County Kept Monkey Breeding Facility a Secret.

Filed under: Experimentation
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Liberating Lolita

November 18, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

In what promises to be the largest protest in history for a captive orca, the Miracle March for Lolita will take place at the Miami Seaquarium on January 17th, 2015. Lolita, who was stolen from her pod off the coast of Washington in 1970 when she was four, has been living in the smallest orca tank in the world for 44 years.

Miami Seaquarium

Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium

For the first 10 years, Lolita had a killer whale companion, Hugo, who reportedly died by pounding his head against the side of the tank. Since 1980, she has been alone, unable to interact with members of her own species or engage in any natural behaviors. Lolita can’t even dive because the the tank to which she is confined is shallower than the length of her body.

One of the Miracle March for Lolita organizers, Robin Jewell, says that over 1,500 people have signed up to participate on Facebook alone and that a film will be made to document the event. The goal, she says, is to shine a national spotlight on Lolita’s plight in an effort to liberate and return her to her pod. Lolita’s mother is still alive, and, even after 44 years, Lolita continues to vocalize in the calls used only by her family, which should help her reintegrate into her pod.

Seattle on Worldwide Day of Protests for Lolita

Seattle on Worldwide Day of Protests for Lolita

In addition to the grass roots movement to free Lolita, advocacy groups are using legal strategies to liberate her. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA and the Orca Network have petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to send her home on the grounds that her pod is protected as an endangered species. To date, Lolita has been denied the same protection as her family. The groups have also sued the USDA because Lolita is kept in a tank that is smaller than the minimum size required by the Animal Welfare Act and has no orca companion or shelter from the sun.

Lolita at Miami Seaquarium

Lolita at Miami Seaquarium

If and when Lolita is liberated, she will be transported by plane to a coastal sanctuary near her pod where she will be rehabilitated and, if possible, transitioned back into the wild. The Orca Conservancy and Orca Network have  published detailed plans for Lolita’s release.

Your Turn

The Miracle March for Lolita is an expensive endeavor, as the City of Miami is charging organizers for police officers, fireman, lane closures and other services. Please donate to help make this march a success.

In addition, please urge Miami Seaquarium owner Palace Entertainment to liberate Lolita so that the advocacy groups can take her home: PETA petition, Petition Site, petition, Born Free petition

Attend the Miracle March for Lolita and/or tell your friends about it.

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ALDF Sues to Free Tiger Held Captive at Roadside Attraction

June 28, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is fighting to free Tony, a 550 pound Bengal tiger being held captive in a cage at a truck stop in Louisiana.  Though big cats are outlawed in Louisiana, lawmakers made an exception for “Truck Stop Tony.”  In an attempt to free Tony and relocate him to a big cat sanctuary in Colorado, the ALDF challenging the constitutionality of the exception: “When the legislature passes a law, it should have general applicability and not confer special favors on one person.”

Truck stop Tony's enclousre

Photo credit: M. Haik.  Truck stop Tony’s enclosure

News & Opinion

Tigers are wild animals who hunt, travel long distances and live with members of their own species.  They should not be roadside attractions where they are deprived of everything that makes their lives worth living.   The Colorado Wild Animal Sanctuary could provide Tony with a 20 acre habitat to roam freely and interact with other tigers while receiving full time veterinary care, enrichment activities and a better diet.  To see how you can help, please visit Free Tony the Tiger.

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