Lawsuit Could Free Whale After 40 Years

Activists use Endangered Species Act in bid for trained orca's freedom
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2011 6:10 PM CST
Lawsuit Could Free Whale After 40 Years
A 1970 photo of the whale hunt that captured Lolita and other whales off Whidbey Island, Wash.   (AP Photo/Wallie Funk)

(Newser) – A trained killer whale named Lolita has been performing at the Miami Seaquarium since her capture in Puget Sound in 1970. Now, animal-rights activists have lodged an unusual lawsuit to win her freedom after all this time, reports the Seattle Times. They sued the federal government, arguing that the Endangered Species Act demands her freedom. The activists say her captivity constitutes harassment, and that should be prohibited under the ESA because Puget Sound whales are protected.

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"The implications are huge," says one law professor. "There are all kinds of animals held in captivity that could be covered by the ESA." The Animal Legal Defense Fund, one of the plaintiffs, thinks Lolita should be transferred back to Puget Sound. There she could be held in something akin to a giant sea pen, allowing her to swim much further and be in contact with other killer whales. (Read more Endangered Species Act stories.)

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