Lolita, a captive orca that has spent more than four decades in an aquarium tank, will be granted the same endangered species protection as her wild relatives, US officials said Wednesday. Advocates hope the ruling will lead to her release from the Miami Seaquarium, where she has lived for the past 35 years, but the matter of Lolita's care remains at the center of an impassioned legal dispute. Her wild relatives, known as the Southern Resident killer whales, were given endangered species protection by the US government a decade ago. There are only 78 individuals left in the Pacific Ocean off the northwestern United States and Canada, said Will Stelle, regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) Fisheries West Coast region.
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