People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and another group have filed a lawsuit to try to free South Florida's most famous whale.
PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed the lawsuit Thursday against the National Marine Fisheries Service for excluding Lolita, Miami Seaquarium's killer whale, from the Endangered Species Act, according to a PETA statement.
The act provides members of the wild southern resident orca population and other endangered animals with protection rights against harassment and harm.
The plaintiffs claim that the Seaquarium has made millions of dollars by forcing Lolita to perform tricks and in its filing they argue that the NMFS exclusion of captive southern resident orcas from the ESA listing is illegal.
"Lolita was torn from her family, has been exploited for every dollar Seaquarium can squeeze out of her, and was finally betrayed by the government agency charged with protecting her, which simply ignored the law," Jeffrey S. Kerr, general counsel to PETA, said in a statement. "This regulatory 'gift' to an industry notorious for making orcas lives miserable is not only extremely cruel but also blatantly illegal."
PETA claims that despite being a member of the Southern Residents, Lolita has been denied the protection rights under the ESA without an explanation from National Marine Fisheries Service.
Miami Seaquarium Andrew Hertz issued a statement emphasizing the good care and living conditions of Lolita and questioning the motives behind the activists involved in the lawsuit, according to the Miami Herald.
Fisheries service spokeswoman Christine Patrick told the Herald the agency does not discuss lawsuits.
PETA claims that at the Seaquarium, Lolita swims in circles in a tank that does not follow USDA regulations and should be in the wild with other orcas.