MIAMI - The mayor of Miami Beach and other South Florida leaders are joining the opposition to an orca's decades-long captivity at the Miami Seaquarium.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other groups have sued in Miami federal court, saying the orca named Lolita should ultimately be removed to a sea pen under a retirement plan that would more closely mimic her natural Pacific Ocean environment.
Lolita was captured in 1970 off the Washington state coast.
Seaquarium officials say Lolita is healthy and removing her would be cruel and traumatic. They criticized Sunday's protesters calling them extremists set on discrediting the park.
In a statement, Seaquarium officials said it would be reckless to jeopardize her health by moving her to a sea pen or open waters in order to appease a fringe group.
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine called for Lolita's release, along with developer Jorge Perez, the Miami Heat's official DJ, chef Ingrid Hoffman and others.