Orca to be set free after spending past 50 years in Miami aquarium 2 months ago

Orca to be set free after spending past 50 years in Miami aquarium

By Jack Peat

It’s a real-life Free Willy!


An orca that has been held in captivity for the last 50 years in Miami will be returned to ‘home waters’ in the Pacific Northwest to live out the rest of her days.

The sea creature, named Lolita, has spent five decades in a ‘whale stadium’ in Florida after she was pulled from the waters in Washington aged four years old in 1970.

She is now believed to be around 57 years old and is said to be the oldest orca currently in captivity.

According to Miami Herald reports, the orca’s health has taken a turn for the worst in recent months, with MS Leisure announcing last year that she would no longer be put on display for the public.


Since then, an independent assessment on Lolita suggested her health has improved, and she is now considered fit enough to return to the open seas.

A news conference held on Thursday (30th March) which was held by the aquarium in Florida along with the non-profit Friends of Lolita and philanthropist and owner of the NFL team Indianapolis Colts Jim Irsay confirmed the plans.

Teasing the announcement ahead of the event, Irsay tweeted:


“I’ll be at a big press conference in Miami on Thursday at 11:30am for a HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT about the future of LOLITA the orca”.

A statement from PETA Foundation Vice President and General Counsel for Animal Law also backed Lolita’s release.

It read: “If Lolita is finally returned to her home waters, there will be cheers from around the world, including from PETA, which has pursued several lawsuits on Lolita’s behalf and battered the Seaquarium with protests demanding her freedom for years.”

“If the Seaquarium agrees to move her, it’ll 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, far-ranging marine mammals to dismal prisons are done and dusted.”


Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava called the news ‘historic’.

“So many have hoped and prayed for this result for many, many years,” she added.

But the hard work has only just begun, with the logistics for transporting such a large animal across the country to Washington state.

The US government has to approve the moving details, Pritam Singh, founder of Friends of Lolita said.

Once that is done plans for the transfer can be put into action.