Lolita, the renowned orca that captured hearts during her time at the Seaquarium, breathed her last on Friday as preparations were underway for her long-awaited move from the Miami theme park.
The 57-year-old orca, now affectionately known as Toki by those advocating for her freedom, had been battling health issues since last autumn when she fell ill due to pneumonia. Recent interviews with her training staff revealed that her condition had worsened, attributed to a renal ailment.
The Seaquarium announced her passing on social media, expressing sorrow for the loss of inspiration and acknowledging her significance to the Lummi nation, who regarded her as family in her natural habitat off Washington State, where she was captured at the age of four.
Backed by Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, a non-profit organisation named Friends of Toki had been collaborating with the Seaquarium to orchestrate Lolita’s transfer to a sea pen off the coast of Washington State. Their tireless efforts included upgrading equipment in her Seaquarium tank and engaging a team of professionals to ensure her well-being during the process. However, despite the diligent care she received, Toki’s health deteriorated rapidly over the last two days, leading to her unfortunate demise, believed to be linked to her renal condition.
Friends of Toki had been in the midst of preparing for the monumental task of relocating the 7,000-pound orca, introducing innovations like a car-sized sling to hoist her onto a transport truck for a cross-country journey to Washington. Although the endeavour was met with logistical challenges, as the required permits and water rights were yet to be secured, it marked a significant step towards liberating Lolita from her enclosure.
Criticised by federal animal inspectors and local authorities for substandard conditions, the Seaquarium had halted the orca’s performances in 2021. After the Dolphin Company acquired the Seaquarium operations in 2022, it was declared that Lolita would never again perform for the public.