MIAMI — Bob Barker, the legendary host of The Price Is Right, has called on the Miami Seaquarium to release Lolita, the famous killer whale kept in captivity there, according to the Miami New Times.
For years, animal rights activists have demanded that the orca, who measures 20 feet and weighs 7,000 pounds, be freed from her miniscule enclosure and sent back to her natural habitat in the Pacific Northwest.
Now Barker has added his voice to the chorus of protestors by stating in a new PETA ad, “I’m calling on the Miami Seaquarium to release the orca Lolita to a seaside sanctuary, where she would be able to feel the ocean currents.”
The controversy surrounding the conditions that Lolita is kept in arise from the fact that her tank is the smallest in the world for a killer whale. The pool is only four times longer than her body and just 20 feet deep, inhumane conditions for a mammal that would swim 75 miles a day in the ocean.
Lolita has been kept in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970. Initially, she was accompanied by her mate Hugo, but after his death in 1980, Lolita has spent the last 40 years isolated from other members of her own species.
After being captured off the coast of Seattle, the orca was sold to the Seaquarium for $20,000. At first, she refused to move or communicate when she arrived in Miami.
“She just barely floated,” Patricia Sykes, a former show assistant at Seaquarium has said. “The skin on her back cracked and bled from the sun and wind exposure. She wouldn’t eat the diet of frozen herring.”
“Enough is enough!” Barker says in the PETA video. “Miami Seaquarium, please make your new year’s resolution to release Lolita.”
Barker has joined other stars, such as Jessica Biel, Wilmer Valderrama, and Daisy Fuentes, who have advocated for the release of the orca. The protests, however, have fallen on deaf ears at the Seaquarium, where handlers say that moving Lolita back to her natural habitat would endanger her life.
PETA disagrees and says Lolita could be slowly released through an enclosure to L pod, where a group that includes an 86-year-old orca thought to be her mother still lives.
Andrew Hertz, the general manager of Seaquarium has sidestepped the issue by saying, “We will continue our commitment to education, conservation and the appreciation for all marine species, including Lolita. All of the residents at the park play an important role in the mission of Miami Seaquarium to educate the public about the need to conserve the marine environment and its residents.”
Barker has a long history as a champion of animal rights. He “banned furs as prizes from The Price Is Right, helped PETA persuade NASA to end radiation experiments on monkeys, and campaigned with PETA against traveling exotic-animal acts, leading to the closure of Ringing Bros. circus,” according to PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk.
“Lolita has the best activist on her side in Bob Barker, and we hope the Miami Seaquarium will hear his plea,” Newkirk added.