Miami, Oct 6 (efe-epa).- Animal rights activists, including one woman dressed as an orca but wearing shackles, gathered on Tuesday in front of the Miami Seaquarium to call on the Spanish firm Parques Reunidos to free Lolita, a killer whale that has been kept there for 50 years.
“This isn’t part of our culture. It’s cruel,” Lyn, the activist who was outfitted as Lolita for several hours, told EFE.
Under a hot sun, the demonstrators called to the site by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) positioned themselves along the roadway connecting Miami with Key Biscayne, outside Seaquarium property, which has been closed to the public for months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The protest is linked to the fact that the French government in late September prohibited holding marine animals in captivity and ordered companies that were doing so to free them into marine preserves.
Parques Reunidos will have to release its animals from its complex in southern France, Marineland, located in Antibes, and the activists who gathered in Miami on Tuesday shouted – and displayed signs concerning – their demand that the Seaquarium also free Lolita, who has been kept there since Sept. 24, 1970, fter being captured on the coast of Washington state.
One of the signs said that Lolita had been locked up in the “smallest orca park in the world” for 50 years, and on others the message was to ask people to watch “Long Gone Wild,” a documentary about the Miami Seaquarium, which – as one of the demonstrators told EFE – is the “sequel to ‘Blackfish.'”
“Blackfish,” which came into the public eye in 2013, denounced poor living conditions for orcas and their trainers at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, a move that created huge losses for that firm, along with a class action suit that cost it $65 million.
Jose Rodriguez, a PETA activist, told EFE that the firm that owns the Seaquarium has never responded to PETA’s requests to discuss Lolita’s future. EFE was unable to contact anyone with Palace Entertainment, a firm that belongs to Parques Reunidos.
Besides PETA, Lolita is being defended by the Lummi Indians, a people originally from the northwestern US, the same area where she was captured along with other killer whales to be used in marine animal shows in different parks around the world.
On Sept. 24, the 50th anniversary of Lolita’s capture, a Lummi delegation met in front of the Seaquarium to pray for her release and to ask Parques Reunidos to agree to transfer her to the Salish Sea estuary in the North Pacific where she was born almost 60 years ago.
In 2007, Parques Reunidos bought Palace Entertainment, the US company that owned Seaquarium, which is keeping Lolita in a pool about 60 feet (18 meters) long and with a maximum depth of 20 feet (6.1 meters), according to figures supplied by animal activists.
“According to our inherent rights, (Lolita) is our relative. We have the right to take her home,” said one of the Lummi, who believe that the orcas are members of their tribe.
Lolita, whose name is Tokitae in the Lummi language, was captured in Penn Cove, on Whidbey Island, on the northwest coast of Washington state, where orcas related to her still live.
In that same part of the Salish Sea, an intricate network of navigable marine waterways in the Cascadia bioregion, which includes territories in both Canada and the US, the Lummi have located a cove to where Lolita can be safely transported with the help of veterinarians and marine biologists.
The Orcanetwork organization has designed a plan to transport Lolita if the Seaquarium agrees to free her.
On the organization’s Web site, the steps in the plan are laid out, including transport by land, sea and air. The longest stretch would be the trip by cargo plane from the Miami International Airport to Bellingham, on the northwest Washington coast, near Vancouver, Canada.
Lolita has had no contact with any other member of her species since the 1980 death at the Seaquarium of Hugo, with whom she lived,