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Photo: EFE
Since it was captured in 1970 off the coast of Washington state, the killer whale has lived locked up in a thimble of water. Photo: EFE

The long prison of the orca 'Lolita': 50 years swimming in a glass of water

"Free Lolita!", demanded activists gathered last Saturday at Miami's Seaquarium, which they accused of animal abuse.

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Majestic cetaceans that inhabit all the oceans of the planet, the killer whales usually swim a hundred miles a day and dive to tens of meters deep in search of food. But Lolita, the main attraction at the Miami aquarium, lives in a 60-foot-long tank divided into two pools. 

"Lolita can't do anything except float without energy and swim in circles all day," Puerto Rican José Rodriguez, one of the protest organizers, told EFE. 

Since it was captured in 1970 off the coast of Washington state, the killer whale has lived locked up in a thimble of water. 

"Lolita has suffered for more than half a century in the smallest orca tank in the world and we are asking the Miami aquarium to transfer Lolita to a coastal sanctuary," added Rodriguez, who led a score of activists who gathered Saturday to demand the whale's liberation and its transfer to a marine sanctuary. 

Wearing masks, carrying banners and proclaiming "Free Lolita" or "Half a Century of Sadness," the protesters asked passers-by on Brickell Avenue, in Miami's financial district, to "never go to a marine park where there are animals in captivity." 

"We really need to educate people about what's going on and become a little more aware because the animals are not ours. We can't force any animal to entertain us and they should be free," said Venezuelan activist Natasha Araos, who was part of the protest that included a plastic fish tank in which a small captive orca was floating.

Celebrities like Kate del Castillo have been trying for years to raise awareness about Lolita's story in collaboration with organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and demanding that animal rights be respected:

According to the Animal Welfare Act, the tanks must be at least eighty feet long — twice the length of an adult killer whale — but Lolita's house is far from compliant. 

Now the ball is in the court of Miami-Dade Attorney General Katherine Fernandez Rundle, to whom PETA sent a letter requesting she investigate the Miami Seaquarium for animal torture.

To this day, activists have not heard a response.

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