Mar. May 30th, 2023

More than 50 years after being captured in the Pacific Ocean and held for decades at the Miami Seaquarium, Lolita the orca may soon return to her «home waters» to live out the rest of her days.

Lolita’s fate is expected to be announced at a Thursday press conference hosted by the Miami Seaquarium, along with the Florida nonprofit Friends of Lolita and NFL Indianapolis Colts owner and philanthropist Jim Irsay. . NBC Miami reported.

«I’ll be at a big press conference in Miami Thursday at 11:30am for a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT on the future of LOLITA the orca,» Irsay wrote in a post. cheep earlier this week. The Miami Seaquarium retweeted a post about the long-awaited announcement.

The Miami Seaquarium did not immediately respond to an overnight request for comment from NBC News.

Lolita, a southern resident orca also known as Tokitae, was taken from Washington state waters in 1970 when she was around four years old, according to NBC Miami. The orca, now believed to be around 57 years old, is the oldest in captivity.

Lolita had fallen ill in recent years, and the company took over the Miami Seaquarium, MS Leisure, announcing last year that the roughly 7,000-pound orca would no longer be on display at the whale stadium.

At the time, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she was «hopeful that this property transfer ushers in an era of responsibility.»

In June, a independent evaluation found that Lolita’s condition had improved.

Southern resident orcas, which spend several summer and fall months each year in Washington state’s Puget Sound, were added to the endangered species list in 2005, according to NOAA Fishingthe US agency responsible for managing the nation’s ocean resources and habitat.

The southern resident population has «fluctuated considerably» since the 1970s, with groups «reduced during 1965-75 due to capture for marine parks,» it says on its website.

The population consisted of 71 whales in 1974, the first year individuals were counted, and then peaked at 97 animals in 1996, before declining again to 79 in 2001, he says, noting that around August 2022, the population I was in the 70’s.

Animal rights activists have advocated for years for Lolita to be moved back to her Puget Sound home, with groups like PETA taking the Seaquarium to court over the orca’s captivity.

«If Lolita finally returns to her home waters, there will be applause from around the world, including from PETA, which has filed various lawsuits on Lolita’s behalf and has hit the Seaquarium with protests demanding her release for years,» said the Foundation’s vice president. PETA and Animal Law General Counsel Jared Goodman said in a statement Tuesday.

“If the Seaquarium agrees to move her, it will offer her long-awaited relief after five miserable decades in a cramped tank and send a clear signal to other parks that the days of confining highly intelligent and powerful marine mammals in dreary prisons are over. ready and dusted,» Goodman said.

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