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Agreement in place to return Lolita the orca to the Pacific

Lolita
Posted at 5:25 PM, Mar 30, 2023

MIAMI (AP) — An unlikely coalition of a theme park owner, animal rights group and NFL owner-philanthropist announced Thursday that a plan is in place to return Lolita — an orca that has lived in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium for more than 50 years — to her home waters in the Pacific Northwest.

“I’m excited to be a part of Lolita’s journey to freedom,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said during a news conference announcing the agreement. “I know Lolita wants to get to free waters.”

The time frame for moving the 57-year-old, 5,000-pound (2,267-kilogram) orca could be six to nine months or even longer, Irsay said. He added that he became part of the mission because “the story of Lolita is near and dear” to his heart.

Irsay is partnering with Eduardo Albor, who heads The Dolphin Company which owns the Seaquarium, and the nonprofit Friends of Lolita, co-founded by environmentalist Pritam Singh, to move Lolita from her marine park tank that measures 80 feet by 35 feet (24 meters by 11 meters) and is 20 feet (6 meters) deep.

Overall the mission will cost $15 million to $20 million, the group said.

The plan is to transport Lolita by plane to Pacific waters off Washington state, where she will initially swim inside a large net while trainers and veterinarians teach her how to catch fish, Irsay said.