Beloved killer whale Lolita died after 52 years in captivity

Lolita, a killer orca whale that had been kept in captivity for more than 50 years, passed away just as authorities were getting ready to release her back into her natural habitat, the Miami Seaquarium said on social media on Friday.

Toki, also known by her Native American name Tokitae or simply “Toki,” had been showing “serious signs of discomfort” during the previous two days, according to the attraction, before she died Friday afternoon.

She died from what was thought to be a kidney ailment, the Miami Seaquarium wrote on Facebook.

“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 from what is believed to be a 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. Those of us who have had the honor and privilege to spend time with her will forever remember her beautiful spirit,” the Seaquarium wrote on Facebook on Friday.

A brief video posted by the amusement park on social media showed her engaging with her keepers and performing tricks in her pool.

Shortly after the attraction reported the whale’s demise, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) issued a written statement.

“PETA urges families to honor Lolita’s memory by never visiting marine parks and is calling on the Seaquarium to continue with plans to send the dolphin who was Lolita’s tankmate to a sea sanctuary, along with all of the other dolphins, before the death toll rises.” 

The oldest killer whale living in captivity

The oldest killer whale in captivity, Lolita was estimated to be at least 57 years old.

When she was about 4 years old, she was captured on August 8, 1970, in Penn Cove, Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington. She was eventually purchased by the Miami Seaquarium. She first lived with another orca named Hugo for almost ten years, but he passed away in 1980.

Animal rights organizations have long wished to relocate Lolita to “a protected cove sea pen” so that she may eventually be transitioned to the ocean.

County officials held a news conference at the end of March to reveal their plan to free her

“The most important thing is Toki’s long-term wellbeing, and together, guided by the experts, we will continue to do what’s best for her,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at the time. “This is such a special creature who is loved by so many people around the world. So many are concerned about her well-being after decades of being in a small tank. Here we are looking at the real possibility that she will spend the rest of her life in nature’s waters and live freely.”

A “binding agreement” between the Seaquarium and Friends of Lolita, a nonprofit organization co-founded by environmentalist Pritam Singh, was approved as part of the arrangement in order to release the whale.

At the time, officials expressed hope that the relocation would take place within the following 18 to 24 months.

Related video: A Boy Bond of Strong Friendship With a Ferocious Orca Whale

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