MIAMI, April 26 (UPI) -- The federal fisheries service said it will consider whether to declare the Miami Seaquarium's killer whale as a member of an endangered pack of the species.
Animal rights activists hailed the decision as a possible step toward returning the whale, Lolita, to her home waters, The Miami Herald reported.
"We fully expect them to conclude that Lolita deserves the same protection as her family in the wild," said Jared Goodman, an attorney for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who asked the National Marine Fisheries Service to review the petition.
Lolita has been the star of the Seaquarium for 43 years and is likely the oldest whale in captivity, the report said.
Andrew Hertz, the Seaquarium manager, said returning the whale to the wild would be reckless.
Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the fisheries service, said the agreement to consider the petition isn't a likely indicator that Lolita will be given protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The petition is based on the service's 2005 decision that declared a southern pack of killer whales endangered. The decision exempted whales previously placed in capacity, the Herald reported.