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Chance for captured orca featured in ‘Blackfish’ to go free

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The National Marine Fisheries Service yesterday, January 24, 1014, proposed a rule to grant Lolita, an orca living alone in a small pen, the same status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that covers all other Southern Resident orcas—the pod that she was captured 1970 (see video). This action follows a campaign that included a petition by PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Orca Network, and others. Lolita may escape her servitude in the smallest orca pen in North America--an enclosure so small it has been called a Miami whale puddle.

Mate may have committed suicide in response to captivity

Lolita was featured in the movie ‘Blackfish’ as an example of animal cruelty. She’s been living in a pen that does not meet federal standard and she lives without any interaction with other orcas. She is a member of a very social species, and she has been alone for decades. According to the ALDF, she once had a companion:

“In 1980, in what many believe was a desperate attempt to break free from his miserable prison, or commit suicide, Hugo continuously rammed his head into the side of the tank and died of a brain aneurysm. In 1980, Hugo’s sudden death left Lolita sulking at the bottom of her tank in a state “not unlike bereavement.” Lolita has not had a killer whale companion since.”

“Lolita should never have been excluded from the Endangered Species Act in the first place, and now the government has righted that wrong,” says general counsel to PETA Jeffrey Kerr. “Lolita has suffered in that tank every day for more than four decades, and PETA is working hard to see her one day freed from her ordeal.”

Lolita’s family lives in wild

Lolita’s mother is known to still be alive in the wild. PETA and the ALDF have pledged that they will continue to work to have Lolita released into a seaside sanctuary that is waiting for her in her home waters off Washington’s San Juan Island and possibly back into her family pod. According to PETA, they began this round of legal advocacy for Lolita in 2012.

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