Lolita The Orca Whale To Be Added To The Endangered Species List

Two years after petitioning the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to list Lolita the Orca whale as an endangered species, on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Orca Network, and others, we are happy to announce that NMFS has agreed to add her to the list, thus protecting her under the Endangered Species Act, the nation’s strongest wildlife conservation law.  Our listing petition can be found here, NMFS’ announcement can be found here, and the Federal Register Notice is to be issued on February 6, 2015.  This means that Lolita is officially a member of an “endangered species” who may no longer be “taken” – i.e., “harmed,” “harassed” or otherwise injured by the Seaquarium, a Miami aquarium, where she has been maintained and forced to perform tricks for the public for the last forty years after being taken from the wild.  Lolita’s wild family – the Southern resident killer whale population – was listed as endangered in 2005 as a “distinct population segment.”  However, in the final listing rule, with no explanation, NMFS excluded Lolita – the only remaining member of this population who lives in captivity.   Because Lolita is a member of the listed entity and genetically valuable to its conservation, we petitioned to have her included in the listing.  NMFS’ decision to include Lolita in the endangered listing is an important step to having her finally returned to her wild family.  We are also currently representing the organizations and individuals in a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture for renewing the Seaquarium’s Animal Welfare Act (AWA) license each year when the facility is keeping Lolita in conditions that violate several AWA standards.  The first round of that litigation is scheduled for oral argument in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals next month.