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.
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.
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)
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 on January 17, 2015 (photo: Christina Estrada)