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The orca Lolita will no longer be forced to perform at the Miami Seaquarium, where she has been kept captive for more than 50 years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted an exhibitor’s license to the owner of the Miami Seaquarium (MS Leisure Company Inc. a subsidiary of The Dolphin Company) on the condition that it no longer displays Lolita and Lii, the white-sided dolphin confined with her in a small, shallow, barren concrete tank.

Lolita was captured five decades ago in the Puget Sound near Seattle.  The Dolphin Company operates 27 other animal prisons in Mexico, Argentina, the Caribbean, Italy and Florida. The Seaquarium on Virginia Key east of downtown Miami first started showing its inmates to the public in 1955. 

Animal Rights organisations are calling for this to be the first step toward possibly releasing Lolita into a seaside sanctuary. PETA, which has staged protests at the park and even taken legal action, is one of them. 

In February 2022, it was reported that the 56-year-old Lolita was suffering from pneumonia and was in danger of not receiving adequate care. PETA claimed that the then attending veterinarian, Shelby Loos, reportedly possessed no experience with orcas when she was hired in 2019. After leaving in 2020, she was rehired in 2021 following the Miami Seaquarium’s firing of its long time head veterinarian (allegedly after she expressed concern about the extent of animal suffering at the park).

Jared Goodman, PETA Foundation Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Animal Law, then said “Lolita has suffered for five decades in this despicable animal prison, and if she has pneumonia, that greatly increases her risk of dying in this inadequate facility. PETA is calling on the Miami Seaquarium to shut down before any more sentient beings suffer and die in its tiny tanks.”