Posted August 18, 2023 at 7:24 p.m. ET
Updated August 18, 2023 at 7:25 p.m. ET
Trainer Marcia Hinton pet Lolita, a captive orca, during a performance at the Miami Seaquarium in Miami, March 9, 1995. Lolita, an orca held in captivity for more than half a century, died on Friday August 18, 2023. at the Miami Seaquarium as caregivers prepared to move her from the theme park in the near future. (Nuri Vallbona/Miami Herald via AP, file)
MIAMI — Lolita, an orca held in captivity for more than half a century, died Friday at the Miami Seaquarium as caregivers prepared to move her from the theme park in the near future.
The Seaquarium posted on social media that Lolita, also known as Tokitae or Toki, had started showing serious signs of discomfort over the past two days. The Seaquarium and Friends of Toki medical team began treatment immediately and aggressively, but the 57-year-old orca died of an apparent kidney disease, the social media post said.
“Toki was an inspiration to all who were fortunate enough to hear his story and especially to the Lummi nation who considered him family,” the Seaquarium message said. “Those who had the privilege of spending time with her will always remember her beautiful spirit.”
Animal rights activists have been fighting for years to have Lolita freed from her aquarium at the Miami Seaquarium. The park’s relatively new owner, The Dolphin Company, and the nonprofit Friends of Toki announced a plan in March to eventually move it to a natural marine enclosure in the Pacific Northwest, with financial backing from Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.
Lolita retired from performing last spring as a condition of obtaining the park’s new exhibition license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She has not been publicly exhibited since. In recent months, new improvements have been installed to better filter the pool and regulate the water temperature.
Federal and state regulators would have had to approve any plans to move Lolita, and that could have taken months or even years. The 5,000-pound (2,267-kilogram) weight had lived for years in a tank measuring 80 feet by 35 feet (24 meters by 11 meters) and 20 feet (6 meters) deep.