Orcas, commonly known as Killer Whales in captivity, have been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent years. Spurred by the documentary Blackfish, what was once seen as engaging entertainment is now seen as cruel and inhumane. Activist groups like PETA have long since campaigned to end the practice of Killer Whale captivity.
Marine Parks, like SeaWorld and the Miami Seaquarium, have listened. While the public outcry has made a difference, it didn’t end the practice altogether. More than 50 Orcas remain in captivity at the time of this writing. The programs vowed to end their Orca breeding programs, though. That means the generation currently performing at these parks is the last generation to be held captive because the practice of taking Orcas from the whole ended decades ago.
Miami Seaquarium was taking it a step further. After pressure from the public animal rights groups and special dedicated groups devoted to the whale’s well-being, Lolita, also known as Tiko, was set to be released back into the wild. Preparations were being made to return her back to the Puget Sound next October. Lolita was the last whale in captivity to have been captured in the wild.
Sadly, Lolita died just days before being released. She suffered from renal fare in a holding tank in preparation for her release. She was 57 years old. Captured in 1970, she stopped performing for the public last year. She was being held in an 80-foot by 35-foot tank.
The Miami Seaquarium veterinary team did try to save her and reported that they employed “aggressive treatment.” She initially began showing signs of stomach discomfort but improved after treatment, and the veterinary team described her as “very stable” and “as good as she can be at 57 years of age.”
“Those who have had the privilege to spend time with her will forever remember her beautiful spirit,” the Seaquarium said in a statement.
“Those who have had the privilege to spend time with her will forever remember her beautiful spirit,” the Seaquarium said in a statement.”
“Her story will forever remind us of the urgent need to protect our oceans and the magnificent creatures that call them home,” Save Lolita, a group dedicated to her release, said.
The Mayor of Miami weighed in, saying, “Alongside the many Miamians who grew up visiting her, the generations of activists around the world that were inspired by her story, and the caretakers who remained dedicated to her until the end – today, we say our final goodbye to our beloved Toki.”
Miami Seaquarium was closed yesterday, August 19, 2023, to honor and grieve the loss of Lolita.
Miami Seaquarium will be closed tomorrow, August 19, to allow our team to reflect on Lolita’s life and legacy. It is truly a sad time for us. Thank you for the kind words and support.
We will open again on Sunday.
— Miami Seaquarium (@MiamiSeaquarium) August 19, 2023