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In wake of Blackfish, activists want Miami Seaquarium's orca returned to the wild


A wetsuit-clad trainer stands on a platform in the middle of a pool and announces to the audience of tourists and schoolchildren: “And now it’s time to meet the biggest star in Miami.”

Seconds later, the 20-foot, 7,000-pound killer whale named Lolita soars into the air and lands with a gigantic splash, spraying cold water over the sides and onto the squealing kids draped in plastic.

Lolita never fails to delight. For nearly 44 years, the wild-born orca has been the main draw for Miami Seaquarium, the marine park on Virginia Key where millions have come from around the world to see the majestic creature perform tricks for fish.

“To us, Lolita is part of our family,” longtime park curator Robert Rose said.

But activists who are headquartered thousands of miles across the country in Washington state say it is long overdue for the killer whale to be returned to her real family in the Pacific Ocean.

Most of the current activists have been part of previous efforts over the past two decades to “Liberate Lolita,” including one led by the governor of Washington. All have fizzled. Now, the activists are waging a seemingly last-ditch campaign, with legal battles on two fronts. Lolita already has overcome the odds, and has lived more than two decades longer than large marine mammals’ average survival in captivity. Story here.