Aug 18, 2023 - News

Lolita, 57-year-old orca, dies in captivity

Lolita, also known as Tokitae and Toki, performs a trick during a training session at the Miami Seaquarium on July 8. Photo: Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Lolita, a Pacific Northwest-born orca who had been living in captivity for more than 50 years, died Friday, the Miami Seaquarium announced.

Why it matters: The death of the killer whale puts an end to a coalition's efforts to move her back to her native Puget Sound, where she was captured off the coast of Washington State in 1970.

Driving the news: Lolita, who was believed to be at least 57 years old, "started exhibiting serious signs of discomfort" in the two days before her death, the Seaquarium said in a post on Facebook.

  • While a team quickly began aggressive medical treatment, it wasn't enough, and she died in the early afternoon "from what is believed to be a renal condition," the Seaquarium said.

What they're saying: "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 who have had the privilege to spend time with her will forever remember her beautiful spirit," the Seaquarium wrote.

Background: The population of Southern Resident killer whales has dropped to below 80, per NOAA.

  • The species' numbers dropped partly due to the whales being captured for marine parks in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, according to the agency
  • Animal rights groups had long called for Lolita's release, pointing to reports of mistreatment and the 20-foot-deep tank they say can't suitably house a 5,000-pound creature, Axios' Miami's Martin Vassolo wrote in March.
  • Some of Lolita's former trainers had petitioned against her relocation, however, fearing she wouldn't survive the journey.

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