The orca was captured from the wild at just four years old to perform at Miami Seaquarium and was set to be released to an ocean sanctuary in the coming months…
One of the world’s most famous orcas Lolita, also known as Tokitae, has died.
Named by the indigenous Lummi tribe as Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut, the orca had spent a staggering 50 years in captivity. The Lummi tribe believe she is a member of their extended family.
Lolita was captured as a child to become a performer at Miami Seaquarium where she lived in a 80ft by 35ft tank that was only 20ft deep.
Lolita the orca dies
Lolita retired in 2022 and calls for her release began circulating. In March, the owners of the Miami Seaquarium announced a ‘formal and binding agreement’ with an initiative called the Friends of Lolita.
Plans to locate her back to the Pacific Northwest were discussed with an 18-24 month timescale.
However, after ‘exhibiting serious signs of discomfort’ Lolita received ‘immediate and aggressive’ medical care. Shortly after she passed away from a suspected renal condition.
“Toki was an inspiration to all who had the fortune to hear her story and especially to the Lummi nation that considered her family,” Miamia Seaquarium wrote on Facebook.
“Those of us who have had the honour and privilege to spend time with her will forever remember her beautiful spirit.”
The marine park also announced a day’s closure for staff to ‘reflect on Lolita’s life and legacy’.
In 2015, protestors picketed outside Seaquarium in support of Lolita to protest the size of her tank (which is below national standards), her lack of protection from the hot sun and her total isolation from other orcas. Photo © Michele Sandberg via Getty Images
Miami Seaquarium under fire
Tokitae’s death sombered the internet, as a harrowing image of her being harness out of her captive state went viral.
Thousands of concerned users, along with registered charities and animal advocates, blasted Miamia Seaquarium for its use of animal shows.
PETA has urged the organisation to send Lolita’s dolphin tank mate, as well as other captive animals, to a seaside sanctuary.
“SeaWorld must also relinquish orca Corky, who has been imprisoned in tiny tanks for nearly 54 years—before she suffers the same fate,” the charity said.
Let this haunting image of Lolita’s body being removed from her torturous prison cell of a tank be the Miami Seaquarium’s lasting legacy: Torture, lies and death. We must make them pay for their egregious abuse. FUCK THE MIAMI SEAQUARIUM!! #RIPLolita pic.twitter.com/QBzDpsmTPq
— @UrgentSeas (@urgentseas) August 19, 2023
CNN star Ana Navarro-Cárdenas was one of the many high-figure profiles airing concern over the matter.
“How is this not considered animal abuse? Imagine living our entire lives in an 8 x 8 cell and being asked to perform tricks every day. So cruel.”
Non-profit Urgent Seas, who campaigned for Lolita’s release, added: “We have never wavered in our advocacy for Lolita, the Miami Seaquarium’s recently deceased orca.
“We knew their promises to return her to the Salish Sea was a PR hoax. We knew the orgs purporting to “rescue” Lolita were in fact helping the Seaquarium in their lies. Never forget.”
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Featured photo © PETA