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Latina Superstar Calls For Lolita's Freedom From Miami Seaquarium

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Lolita, the lone orca at the Miami Seaquarium, has some new star power behind the push to have the killer whale released from captivity.

During a scheduled news conference Tuesday, Mexican actress Kate del Castillo urged tourists to boycott the Miami tourist attraction until the orca is released. Castillo, who has teamed up with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), also debuted a new video which urges the Seaquarium to return the orca into a coastal sanctuary where the whale was taken from her family more than four decades ago.

PETA produced the video in English and Spanish.

A statement released by the Miami Seaquarium Tuesday afternoon reads, "An actress looking for publicity and an activist organization committed to the elimination of zoos and aquariums are not experts when deciding what is best for Lolita the killer whale.   She is healthy and thriving in her home of almost 46 years where she shares her habitat with Pacific white-sided dolphins. There is no scientific evidence that the approximately 50 year-old post-reproductive Lolita could survive if she were to be moved from her home at Miami Seaquarium to a sea pen or to the open waters of the Pacific Northwest."

"It would be reckless and cruel to jeopardize Lolita's health and safety by moving her from her home of 46 years.  Miami Seaquarium is not willing to experiment with her life in order to appease a fringe group. These individuals will never be satisfied with the care she receives.  Lolita is part of the Miami Seaquarium family and is as active and healthy as ever, a true testament to her care."

"Lolita plays an important role in the mission of Miami Seaquarium to educate the public about the need to conserve the marine environment and its residents.  We know firsthand the educational and inspirational experiences children and adults have when they see Lolita, our dolphins and the other marine mammals at our facility. More than 65,000 school children and 600,000 guests visit Miami Seaquarium each year to learn about Lolita and the other residents of the sea."

"Lolita will continue to be an ambassador for her species from her home at Miami Seaquarium."

Kate del Castillo starred in a similar campaign for PETA Latino last year criticizing SeaWorld's treatment of its orcas. In Mexico, the actress also lobbied with PETA to ban bullfighting and circus animals.

"Everything moves me about Lolita's story. I think it's devastating, and it breaks my heart in every single way," says del Castillo in an interview with PETA Latino. She adds, "She should be allowed to live near her mother and the rest of her pod in a protected coastal sanctuary."

In an interview at a Miami hotel, del Castillo said she hoped Seaquarium and SeaWorld parks would soon follow the iconic Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in closing for good. Feld Entertainment will close its circus permanently in May because of falling ticket sales, high operating costs and changing public tastes in entertainment amid prolonged battles with animal rights groups.

Del Castillo said her activism has made her somewhat regret acting in the 1996 Mexican telenovela "Azul," which also starred Keiko, the orca made famous in the film "Free Willy." The orca was released into the wild in 1998 and died in 2003.

"I could have done more," del Castillo said.

At roughly 52-years-old, Lolita is the oldest orca living in captivity, and the only one in the U.S. to live outside a SeaWorld park. She hasn't seen another orca since 1980 when her tank mate, Hugo, died after ramming his head into the side of their tank.

PETA and other animal rights groups have for years sought to have Lolita released into a protected marine pen in Puget Sound waters where the female orca was legally captured in 1970.

The Jan. 6 death of Tilikum, the SeaWorld orca that killed a trainer in 2010 and was later profiled in a documentary that helped sway popular opinion against keeping killer whales in captivity, makes Lolita's plight more poignant, said Jared Goodman, PETA's director of animal law.

"She can have a happier ending than Tilikum did, dying alone in his tank," Goodman said.

Kate del Castillo, star of "Reina del Sur" ("The Queen of the South") made headlines herself last year when she received flirty texts from famous drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. She later orchestrated a meeting with the then fugitive, along with Sean Penn, who interviewed him for Rolling Stone.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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