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MIAMI (CBSMiami)– More than a thousand animal advocates and locals marched Saturday for the release of Miami Seaquarium’s Orca named Lolita.
The march started at 10:00 a.m. at the Virginia Key Beach Park.
“Today we’ve become a movement, an anti-captivity movement that is global and nationally put together,” said the founder of the march Robin Jewell Roberts.
In its first year, the Miracle March For Lolita attracted animal lovers of all ages, all walks of life and even from Hollywood to join their cause.
“I’m an animal lover and a people lover and I have watched our world become a brutal place. It breaks my heart but then I come to this and see people passionate. It restores my faith in humanity,” said actress Shannen Doherty.
Lolita, the most famous orca in the Miami Seaquarium has been there for more than 40 years. Animal advocates have been fighting for Lolita’s release for decades.
“I fully believe that the way to learn about the animal is learn about them in the wild not by what they do at the Miami Seaquarium and Sea World. It’s not what they do in the wild,” said Katrina Gawel who attended the march.
“Lolita has been in that tank since Hurricane Andrew through storms, disasters. It’s like a person living in a tub. It is wrong cruel and we have to get her out,” said Jerry Powers who also attended the event.
CBS4’s Marybel Rodriguez spoke with Robert Rose, the curator at the Miami Seaquarium who has been by Lolita’s side for more than 20 years.
“What would happen to Lolita if she is freed,” Rodriguez asked.
“She would die,” responded Rose. “She’s not prepared. They are talking about taking her to a sterile pen…That is a big change for her. She is an older animal, well cared for here. She is considered a non-releasable animal by us and by the National Marine Fishery Services.”
While locals marched in Miami, six other marches were going on at the same time, for the same cause in Dallas, Seattle, San Diego, Vegas , London, Colorado.
Advocates announced a plan on Friday to buy the Orca and move her to a protected cove near the San Juan Islands where her family roams.
Later this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will decide whether to include Lolita in a group of whales declared endangered in 2005.