Loneliest Orca: Drone Footage Reveals Killer Whale Living In America’s Smallest Tank

A campaign hoping to raise awareness for Lolita, a killer whale at the Miami Seaquarium, has filmed drone footage of the orca’s living conditions, which have been described as America’s smallest and oldest tank.

The 7,000 pound killer whale was captured off the Washington coast in 1970, according to the Daily Mail, and has been housed in a tank just 35-feet-wide ever since. Activist Paul James recorded the video for Drones for Animal Defense, hoping to garner attention for the orca’s plight.

Activists have alleged that the orca’s tank violates the Animal Welfare Act, arguing that an enclosure for a killer whale of Lolita’s size must be, at a minimum, 13 feet larger. They also point out that the current tank offers the whale no protection from the sun or elements.

The orca’s living situation has previously been the subject of an eight-minute-long film, A Day In The Life Of Lolita, which was highlighted at the 2014 Big Apple Film Festival in New York City. The film’s director, Daniel Azarian, called the whale’s holding tank “tragically small,” according to the Journal of the San Juan Islands, noting that her confinement in such a small space causes the orca to exhibit repetitive behaviors not observed in the wild.

Both Whale and Dolphin Conservation and the Orca Network, two campaign groups focusing on cetacean welfare, have highlighted Lolita’s situation. In 2011, a legal effort initiated by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) failed to secure the orca’s release, though efforts continue.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, accepted a petition in 2013 asking them to consider whether Lolita should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA is expected to decide near the end of January whether or not Lolita can be included under the Act’s listing of Southern Resident killer whales.

Though Lolita’s plight is visible, she is not the only killer whale currently living in an abysmally small tank. As the Inquisitr previously reported, a pair of orcas have been kept in concrete enclosures outside of Moscow for nearly the entirety of 2014, as a larger facility is constructed. Activists point out that the tanks are nowhere near large enough for the killer whales, as orcas in the wild cover ranges of up to 150 kilometers in a single day.

[Image: Paul James/ Drones for Animal Defense via the Daily Mail]

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