Can a killer whale be a slave?

Story highlights

  • Carl Safina: Lolita, a captured killer whale, is living in Florida at the Miami Seaquarium in a confined space
  • Safina: Lolita should be released into her home waters of Washington State so she can be with her family

Carl Safina holds the Endowed Chair for Nature and Humanity at Stony Brook University and is author of the upcoming book, "Beyond Words: How Animals Think and Feel." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)"Lolita's story reminded me of my own," says African-American actress and singer Robbyne Kaamil. "My own relatives, my family ancestors, were captured and forced into slavery."

Captured in waters off Washington State in 1970, Lolita is an orca -- a killer whale. Kaamil, who perceives clear parallels between Lolita's life of captivity-for-profit and the human slave trade, was inspired to record "Let The Girl Go: Free Lolita," a bold music video about Lolita, and a courageous interview on the parallels of captivity between human slaves and performing orcas.
Robbyne Kaamil
Lolita is still living in Florida at the Miami Seaquarium. She's been the focus of a concerted campaign to win her release. In January, Kaamil participated in a march in Miami that drew an impressive crowd estimated by the Miami Herald to be around 1,000 people.
    Can a killer whale be a slave? Literally? "It's important to understand how horrendous it is to steal a baby orca from her family, force her to perform, and hold her in the equivalent of a bath tank until she dies. It's a crime," Kaamil said.
    Lolita has spent 44 years in a teacup. She is 20 feet long, living in a tank reportedly to be about 20 feet deep, 35 feet wide and 80 feet long. Free-living orcas usually travel 25 to 75 miles per day. Compared to say, 40 miles, 80 feet is about 1/2600th the size of an orca's normal daily life.