Orca Lolita dies after 50 years in captivity in Florida

Animal News : Orca Lolita dies after 50 years in captivity in Florida
Orca Lolita forced to perform a trick during a show at the Miami Seaquarium, Florida, January 21, 2015. Picture taken January 21, 2015, credit: Reuters/Andrew Innerarity

The 57-year-old orca Lolita, also known as Tokitae or Toki, died Friday at Miami Seaquarium in Florida, United States. The orca was kept in captivity for over 50 years. 

In 1970, when she was around four years old, the female killer whale was captured from the wild and sold to Miami Seaquarium, where she was forced to perform tricks for visitors until 2022. 

“Over the last two days, Toki started exhibiting serious signs of discomfort,” Miami Seaquarium said in a Facebook post. “She passed away Friday afternoon from what is believed to be a renal condition.”

In March, Miami Seaquarium announced orca Lolita would be released to a semi-wild sea pen in the Pacific Northwest within two years.

The move came after years of advocacy by animal rights groups, including a legal battle to free Lolita. Her release was long-awaited by the public, particularly after the 2013 documentary Blackfish highlighted the cruelty of the captivity of orcas.

A killer whale can live up to 80 years and is a highly social animal. However, captivity in pools or small tanks causes severe physical and mental harm to orcas, including anxiety, depression and death.

“There is something inherently obscene about a magnificent creature such as Lolita dying in a concrete stadium. This is going to continue until people stop buying tickets. There is no other way,” Ric O’Barry, founder of Dolphin Project, said.

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