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Miami Seaquarium faces eviction over animal neglect investigations

Following the tragic death of an orca whale named Lolita, the welfare of animals kept in the Florida Seaquarium has come under intense scrutiny. Now, it appears the site will be forced to close for good.

It’s a big day for animal rights.

After almost 70 years, the Seaquarium in Miami, Florida could be forced to close for good. The US Department of Agriculture has been pushing for the site’s closure for years, as federal inspections revealed a series of unaddressed structural issues were creating dangerous conditions for animals and employees.

Now, county officials have filed a lease termination and eviction notice to The Dolphin Company. The company took ownership of the park in 2022 and has been told to vacate the property by April 21st of this year.

Though the leaseholders are expected to fight the motion in court, it remains unclear what will happen to the park’s many animals if it is forced to close.

The US Humane Society has long advocated for ending the captivity of whales and other cetaceans, stating that they are best observed in their natural environments instead of being held to entertain people.

This view is now widely held, as scientific insights into the complex lives and behaviours of whales and dolphins continue to reveal their inherent need for close social relationships, community pods, as well as the freedom to hunt and swim for long distances.

Miami’s County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava – a longtime supporter of the park’s closure – reiterated findings from inspections in a press conference.

She said that the Seaquarium’s ‘continuous [health and safety] violations, including decaying animal habitats, lack of veterinary staff and a lack of other experienced staff’ warrant its closure.

Public discontent exploded last year after the death of an Orca whale named Lolita. Brought to the Seaquarium to perform for crowds of live audiences, she lived 55 of her 57 years in a tank measuring 24 metres by 11 metres high.

Before her death, Lolita was diagnosed with a chronic heart condition that resulted in the degeneration of her cardiac valves. She also suffered from pneumonia and renal deterioration.

At least 120 more dolphins and whales have died in captivity at the Seaquarium, according to the Dolphin Project.

The park’s closure would be welcomed amongst officials and activists within Miami. Let’s hope it leads to a long-overdue ban on keeping marine mammals in captivity, away from their natural habitats.