MIAMI (AP) — Lolita, an orca whale held captive for more than half a century, died at the Miami Seaquarium Friday as caregivers prepared to remove her from the amusement park in the near future.
The Seaquarium released a statement from the non-profit group Friends of Toki on social media that Lolita – also known as Tokitae or Toki – has started to show serious signs of being unwell in the last two days. Members of the Seaquarium and Friends of Toki medical team immediately and aggressively began treatment, but the 57-year-old orca died of apparent kidney disease, the statement said.
“Toki was an inspiration to all who were fortunate enough to hear her story and especially to the Lummi nation who thought of her family,” the statement from Toki’s friends read. “Those who have had the privilege of spending time with her will forever remember her wonderful spirit.”
Animal rights activists have been campaigning for years to have Lolita freed from her aquarium at the Miami Seaquarium. The park’s relatively new owner, The Dolphin Company, and the non-profit organization Friends of Toki announced a plan in March for relocation to a natural sea stable in the Pacific Northwest, possibly with financial assistance from Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.
“It breaks my heart that Toki has left us,” Irsay said in a statement. “Your story captured my heart, as did millions of others. It has been an honor to be part of the team working to help them return to their indigenous homeland and I take comfort in knowing that we have significantly improved their living conditions over the past year. Her spirit and grace touched so many. Rest in peace dear Toki.”
lolita withdrawn from the show last spring as a condition of the park’s new exhibitor license with the US Department of Agriculture. Since then it has not been shown publicly. New upgrades have been installed in recent months to better filter the pool and regulate its water temperature.
Federal and state regulators would have had to approve any plan to move Lolita, and that could have taken months or years. The animal, weighing 2,267 kilograms, lived for years in a tank that is 24 by 11 meters in size and 6 meters deep.