Lolita, an orca whale that had been in captivity for more than 50 years, passed away as caregivers made plans for her to leave the Miami Seaquarium and return to her home waters.
The Miami Seaquarium shared the sad news on social media Friday, saying that Toki, short for her Native American name Tokitae, “started exhibiting serious signs of discomfort.”
Over the last two days, Toki started exhibiting serious signs of discomfort, which her full Miami Seaquarium and Friends of Toki medical team began treating immediately and aggressively. Despite receiving the best possible medical care, she passed away Friday afternoon… pic.twitter.com/hx79OhGn2O
— Miami Seaquarium (@MiamiSeaquarium) August 18, 2023
The Miami Seaquarium and Friends of Toki medical team administered medical treatment, but Toki died Friday afternoon. They believe the orca experienced some type of 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,” the statement read. “Those who have had the privilege to spend time with her will forever remember her beautiful spirit.”
According to CBS News, Lolita was captured on August 8, 1970, when she was four years old. Animal rights groups had long called for her to be freed and announced a plan to move her back to a natural sea pen in March. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay provided financial backing to make the move happen.
The orca retired from performing last year and has not been on display to the public since. The Associated Press reports that the pool where she was housed had recently undergone upgrades.
Federal and state regulators would have had to approve any plans to move the killer whale, which could’ve taken years. The original plan was to have her moved within 18 to 24 months.