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Free Lolita Update 137

Click HERE to see the Free Lolita Update #137.

Lolita Update #137
Progress Update and Commemoration Event
August 4, 2014

Many dedicated efforts are underway and gaining strength daily to acheive the goal of returning Lolita to her home and family. These struggles are going on behind closed doors in the courts, at NOAA, in full public view at the front entrance to the Seaquarium, and in the determined hearts and minds of a vast populace of Lolita supporters working hard to help this long-suffering orca.

A bird's eye video of Lolita from August 2, 2014 under the midday Miami sun: Overhead view of Lolita alone.

The 1996 KOMO TV documentary with some incredible interviews, narrated by the late beloved Kathi Goertzen: Lolita - Spirit in the Water.

The informative and insightful documetary by Rattle The Cage Productions: Lolita - Slave to Entertainment

Some background: In the summer of 2011 a legal team began planning actions to help Lolita return to her native waters. Mostly from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the team arrived at a multi-pronged approach. First, they focussed on the fact the Seaquarium whale tank violates multiple provisions of the Animal Welfare Act, administered by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) under the USDA. The Seaquarium receives an annual license to operate despite these violations, so "The Team" described for the court precisely how the regulations were violated, and assembled expert opinion to establish that the violations were likely causing Lolita to suffer. In early 2013 the license was re-issued as expected so in short order we sued the USDA for issuing the license to an unlawful facility. The case was dismissed on March 21, 2014 on the procedural grounds that the inspectors have the discretion to ignore the regulations written by Congress. On July 1, 2014 we appealed the dismissal to an appelate court, which hopefully will examine the violations and not just the right of the inspectors to ignore them. In a few months a date for that decision will be announced, but it is likely to be decided by early next year.

At the same time another case has been in the works, this one a petition to NOAA Fisheries to include Lolita as a member of the Southern Resident community. She was expressly excluded when the ESA determination for the Southern Residents was written in 2005. NOAA has now agreed to consider inlcuding Lolita as a member of an endangered population, and on January 24, 2014 NOAA proposed a rule to grant Lolita endangered status with her family. The comment period drew 19,190 comments, with the final determination expected in late January 2015.

Each of these efforts required vast pages of supportive literature, providing the courts a thorough education on the cultural, cognitive and emotional capacities of orcas, and the stresses seen in captive orcas.

In February 2012 PETA attorneys brought forth a case against SeaWorld based on the 13th Amendment, suing the corporation for enslaving five orcas held by SeaWorld, and once again establishing a prodigious body of legal literature on the highly developed natural history of orcas. The case was dismissed after informing much of the public that capture and forced servitude of orcas is much like slavery in humans, again with a considerable body of supportive literature placed into the public record.

Another legal track, conducted by ALDF, was to sue OSHA for not enforcing the same abatement requirements on the Seaquarium that are being imposed on SeaWorld, namely that trainers shouldn't get into the water with Lolita. OSHA agreed in late July, and fined the Seaquarium $7,000 while they were at it. The suit was written so that it applies only to showtimes, so that "husbandry" can be performed outside the shows, which may be important for Lolita's mental health simply for the companionship.

On July 2, 2014, the Seaquarium was bought by Palace Entertainment, owned by Parques Reunidos, which owns over 70 theme parks including Marineland, Antibes in France. We have written to Palace Entertainment to suggest that their actions toward Lolita will be very important to a great many people, and their image could suffer or could soar depending on whether they hinder or help her return home. On May 30 Orca Network wrote a letter to Fernando Eiroa, President and CEO of Palace Entertainment, asking him to consider Lolita's health and welfare, and the image of Palace Entertainment, in their decisions about Lolita's retirement.

Below are some letters and petitions you can personalize with your message and send to Palace Entertainment to encourage them to provide assistance to Lolita's retirement:

From PETA: Urge Palace Entertainment, the Owner of Miami Seaquarium, to Free Lolita!
From Born Free USA: Ask Palace Entertainment to Free Lolita!
From the Origami Whales Project: Update on Orca Lolita ~ Please TAKE ACTION.
From Care2: Ask Palace Entertainment to Free Lolita!
From Alexandrea Welch at Release Lolita and bring her home to Washington State.

In harmony with these legal actions, for several years now and with ever increasing frequency and determination, demonstrations and informational protests have rocked the entrance to the Seaquarium. A wide array of homemade and heartfelt signs, postcards and flyers are read by the occupants of every car that goes in the parking lot, so a lot of people are seeing Lolita in a whole new way as a result.

All of these factors are energizing each other in this post-Blackfish era of rejection of captivity for cetaceans. The legal efforts are likely to be at least partially resolved by early in 2015. We don't want to make any big predictions, but the signs are pointing to a possible breakthrough for Lolita early next year. -->

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Much is going on to help bring Lolita home and to inform and advocate for her and her family Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to help Orca Network continue this work by clicking HERE. Thank you!

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