Orca whale kept in captivity for 50 years to FINALLY be freed
Lolita the Orca was dragged from the waters of Washington in 1970 when she was just 4-years-old and has been forced to perform for millions of spectators at Miami Seaquarium.
The 57-year-old orca is the oldest to be held in captivity and was finally pulled from performing after falling ill.
But during a news on conference on Thursday it was revealed the 7,000 pound whale would be eventually freed.
The Miami Seaquarium, along with Florida non-profit Friends of Lolita, philanthropist and owner of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts Jim Irsay, struck a deal to release the whale so she can go to "home waters."
Animal rights groups have waged decades-long campaigns and have long claimed that Lolita's living conditions were poor and her tank was too tiny.
The tourist attraction is said to be aging and Lolita became a poster animal in drives to change the way society thinks about animals in captivity and performing animals.
Pritam Singh, founder of nonprofit Friends of Lolita, admitted there was a lot of work ahead of them to get the whale home.
The US government has to agree to the move and officials in Miami and Florida will need to work together.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “But I think we’re up to the task."
According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, southern orcas which spend several months of the year in Washington, were added to the endangered species list in 2005.
The population of the whales has "fluctuated considerably" since the 1970s and had been "reduced during 1965-75 because of captures for marine parks."
In 1974, the population of whales was 71, which was the first year they were counted, and peaked at 96 in 1996.
However, the numbers declined to 79 in 2001 with the current numbers thought to be in the 70s.