January 23rd, 2013
Feds Must Protect Orca Under Endangered Species Act or Supply a Legal Reason for Exclusion, Groups Say
For immediate release
Lisa Franzetta, ALDF
Shakira Croce, PETA
According to the settlement agreement reached after the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), PETA, the Orca Network, and four individuals filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regarding the orca Lolita's unlawful exclusion from the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the agency must now either include Lolita in the ESA listing or supply a legal reason to exclude her. PETA and ALDF submitted a petition today to the NMFS calling for Lolita to be listed as endangered, along with her free-living family, the Pacific Northwest’s Southern Resident orcas. Lolita has been confined to the smallest orca tank in North America at the Miami Seaquarium for more than 40 years and has been without a companion since 1980, when her tank mate, Hugo, reportedly died of a brain aneurysm after slamming his head into the side of their concrete tank.
"By excluding Lolita from the endangered listing, the government allows the Seaquarium to keep Lolita isolated in a tiny barren tank and force her to perform with no protection from the sun—all of which would violate the ESA's protection against 'harm' and 'harassment,'" says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders.
"ALDF and PETA are calling on the government to extend the ESA's minimal protections to Lolita and will continue to push for her return to the ocean and her family—where she belongs," says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells.
Southern Resident orcas were critically depleted in the 1960s and '70s, when dozens of them—including Lolita—were captured for public display. Captive members of a species are, by default, to be included in an endangered listing, and NMFS is prohibited from considering commercial interests—such as the Seaquarium's—in its listing decisions.