10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Lolita

On August 18, 2023, Lolita died at Miami Seaquarium. The following are some facts about her life:

1. Lolita is a Southern Resident orca captured on August 8, 1970 in Penn Cove, WA

She remains the only survivor of almost 50 Southern Residents captured for marine parks before 1974.

2. Lolita is an L Pod orca, one of three pods that make up the Southern Residents.

The other two pods are J Pod and K Pod. Estimates say the historical population size of Southern Residents (J,K and L pods combined) was about 140 individuals. Facing a number of threats, their population has been around 74 individuals in recent years.

3. Lolita has been housed at the Miami Seaquarium in Florida over 50 years.

She has performed three times a day for decade- over 50,000 performances during her lifetime.

4. Lolita has not seen another orca in over 40 years.

Her companion Hugo died in 1980, after repeatedly smashing his head into the walls of the tank.

5. Lolita's presumed mother is Ocean Sun (L25). In her 80s, she still swims free.

Ocean Sun never had another calf, and is believed to now be the oldest living member of the Southern Residents. When Lolita was captured, a matriline ended.

6. Lolita's family was awarded Endangered Species Act protection in 2005. Lolita was not initially included.

The government initially excluded any orca and their offspring who were in captivity prior to the listing. After mounting pressure from a number of orca advocates, NOAA amended the ESA listing to include Lolita in 2015. Sadly, this does not help her get out of captivity at Miami Seaquarium.

7. Lolita has been in the same tank for over 40 years.

Miami Seaquarium has been promising to build Lolita a new tank since 1978. Her exposure to the sun and weather violates Section 3.103(3)(b) of the Animal Welfare Act. Her tank is also 13 feet shorter than what is required by the Animal Welfare Act (Section 3.104).

8. Officials partly blame the orca captures for the Southern Resident whales' decline.

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS): “Part of the reason why the SRKW population size is small is that … it was targeted for live capture removals.”

9. Experts believe that Lolita still remembers her family.

Orca Network: “After listening to calls of her family member in 1996 by Dateline NBC, Lolita appeared to recognize them.”

10. The Lolita Retirement Plan would return her home, to the Pacific NW.

Scientists and marine mammal experts would rehabilitate Lolita for her return to the wild and her family.

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