The Miami Seaquarium announced Friday that Lolita, the orca whale who spent more than five decades in captivity, has died. The whale had been “exhibiting serious signs of discomfort” for two days, according to the Seaquarium, for which she had been treated “immediately and aggressively.” The cause of death is presumed 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,” the statement read. “Those who have had the privilege to spend time with her will forever remember her beautiful spirit.”
Animal rights activists had been fighting for the orca, who was also known as Tokitae and Toki. She was believed to be 57 years old, making her one of the oldest killer whales to be held in captivity, and made news headlines in late March after the park’s new owner, The Dolphin Company, and nonprofit Friends of Toki announced a plan to move her to a natural sea pen in the Pacific Northwest. This move, with the financial backing of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, could have taken months or even years.
“Our collective wish was to see Toki in her native waters and we are heartbroken to learn of this sudden loss.” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a statement.
The orca was caught in 1970 in Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington. She was then sold to the Miami Seaquarium and had lived there ever since. After decades of performing for park guests, she retired last year under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and remained in her 80-feet long, 35-feet wide tank, which was closed to the public.
The Miami Seaquarium announced that it would be closed on Saturday, August 19 to allow the “team to reflect on Lolita’s life and legacy. It is truly a sad time for us.” It will reopen on Sunday.
“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 health until the very end – today, we say our final goodbye to our beloved Toki,” said Levine Cava.