Killer Whale Miami Seaquarium: Lolita, the celebrated orca of the Miami Seaquarium, has tragically passed away before her anticipated return to her natural home.
Lolita, affectionately known as Tokitae or Toki, a beloved orca captured in 1970 off the coast of Washington state, had captured the hearts of many and even boasted her own fan club. The Miami Seaquarium had collaborated with the nonprofit group Friends of Toki to facilitate her relocation back to her original habitat, the Puget Sound. This collaborative effort was announced in the spring and aimed to provide Lolita with a custom enclosure in her native waters.
Sadly, on Friday, it was announced by the caring nonprofit group that Lolita had succumbed to an unspecified kidney-related ailment. Despite receiving top-notch medical attention, her health condition deteriorated, likely due to a renal issue, leading to her passing.
The nonprofit group Friends of Toki stated, “Despite receiving the best possible medical care, she passed away Friday afternoon from what is believed to be a renal condition.” This 57-year-old orca had shown signs of discomfort in her final days, raising concerns about her well-being.
In recent years, Lolita had battled health problems, with a welfare assessment conducted on July 31 by marine mammal veterinarians indicating ongoing health struggles. The report highlighted that she was still combating infection, experiencing abdominal distress, and had a lung lesion. A chronic pulmonary infection, which was described as such in a Friends of Toki update on July 12, necessitated her daily antibiotic treatment.
Lolita’s care encompassed medical attention from veterinarians and constant monitoring of her aquatic environment. The water parameters were being adjusted to create a healthier setting for her – the discontinuation of chlorine usage, the development of algae (deemed as a positive sign), and the utilization of chillers to maintain the Pacific-like coldness in the otherwise tropical waters. These aspects were detailed in the assessments provided by veterinarians and the updates from the nonprofit organization.
The initiative to send Lolita back to the Puget Sound, her original home, faced several regulatory challenges, requiring approvals from both state and federal authorities. The Lummi Nation, representing the Indigenous people of northwestern Washington state, played a central role in advocating for Lolita’s return. To the Lhaq’temish people of the Lummi Nation, she was akin to a kidnapped family member.
Having spent more than five decades in captivity, Lolita’s time in confinement exceeded that of nearly every other living orca, barring Corky, a fellow captive at SeaWorld San Diego who was captured in the same region in 1969.
Lolita’s poignant story had long resonated with animal rights groups striving to end the captivity of orcas and other marine creatures. Friends of Toki expressed their sentiments, stating, “Toki was an inspiration to all who had the fortune to hear her story and especially to the Lummi nation that considered her family. Those of us who have had the honor and privilege to spend time with her will forever remember her beautiful spirit.”