Orca Gets 'Endangered' Protection: Lolita The Lonely Killer Whale May Be One Step Closer To Freedom

Lolita's life of entertaining began on August, 8, 1970, when she was caught alongside a group of 80 orcas. She and six others were just youngsters. The killer whales were sold to marine parks so they could jump for crowds. She was bought by Miami Seaquarium to be a mate for Hugo, their resident orca. Although the two were together for 10 years, they did not produce any offspring. Hugo died in 1980 after repeatedly smashing his head into the side of the tank.

Lolita has been at the Miami Seaquarium for over 40 years.

Lolita, the lonely killer whale, is 20 feet long and weighs around 7,000 pounds. She lives in what has been deemed the "Whale Bowl," a pool of water that is 60-foot-by 80-foot and is only 20 feet deep. As the Inquisitr recently reported, activists argue that the enclosure must be 13 feet larger to abide by the Animal Welfare Act.

The National Marine and Fisheries Services has listed the orca as "endangered." She has now gained the same title has the group of orcas that spend time off the coast of Washington state, where she was originally captured. The pods that roam the area are known as the Southern Resident Killer Whales.

What does this new title mean for Lolita? Unfortunately, not much. The Huffington Post reports that the Marine and Fisheries services said the listing does not have any effect on the whale's current situation.

"...the whale's inclusion in the endangered listing for southern resident killer whales does not impact the animal's stay at the Florida facility..."

Will Stelle, regional administrator for the Fisheries Services, said, "This is a listing decision. It is not a decision to free Lolita. It's not a decision that she should be free."

However, despite the comment from Fisheries Services, many are hopeful that this change in status can help push Lolita one step closer to freedom. According toMSN, the Animal Legal Defense Fund released a statement that said the killer whale may be able to swim in the ocean once more.

"Today's proposed rule makes the possibility of Lolita's retirement to a seaside sanctuary tangible....Were she to be released, she would be able to live her life with dignity, in an environment that more closely resembles her natural environment. There's even a possibility she could be reunited with her family!"

Simply releasing the killer whale into open waters could spell disaster for the animal. She would most likely die due to the fact she has been in captivity most of her life. What activists propose should happen is this: Let Lolita be released into a protected cove that enables her to been in a more natural environment. She would also be close enough to communicate with the pods that roam the area -- she would be able to talk to her family! Eventually, if the whale learned to care for herself and hunt, she could be released back into the wild.

Do you think Lolita deserves the title of "endangered?" Would releasing the lonely orca be the right thing to do?

[Image via Twitter]