The new year may be a good one for Lolita, the 7,000 pound orca that has lived at the Miami Seaquarium for over 40 years. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposed a rule on Friday to grant Lolita protection as an endangered species -- a ruling that may allow for her to be retired from performing and transferred to a seaside sanctuary.
The proposal, spurred by a petition by PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Orca Network and others, would include Lolita as a member of the Southern Resident orcas -- a population of just 85 animals that was listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2005. Lolita was seized from this population in 1970 for captivity.
"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."