For some time those involved in attempts to retire Lolita/Tokitae have claimed that the tank in which she is being held does not meet the minimum legal standards for keeping orca and is in contravention of the US Animal Welfare Act. However, both Miami Seaquarium and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) – a division of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) – have claimed that this is not the case and that the tank does meet federal space standards.
Recent reports in the US media claim that the USDA are now reconsidering its judgement and appear to accept that the enclosure does in fact consist of two pools and not one (due to the trainers’ concrete work island), meaning the largest pool only has a MHD of 35ft – preventing Lolita/Tokitae from normal movement, making the tank non-compliant with standards.
Margaux Dodds, who is responsible for overseeing Marine Connection’s involvement in the campaign to retire Lolita comments; “Whilst it is encouraging that the authorities responsible for overseeing conditions in which Lolita is being held have at last recognised the illegality of the space she is being forced to exist within, what action will be taken and when remains to be seen. Lolita has had to endure these conditions for almost half a century and we sincerely hope that the authorities acceptance of the illegality of the tank will take us a step nearer to allowing her to retire to a seaside sanctuary, and live the remainder of her life in more natural conditions. Lolita should be returned to the area from which she was captured all those years ago – it is the very least that she is owed, and deserves.”