Art & Culture

Miami Seaquarium’s beloved orca Lolita is preparing to retire

Miami Seaquarium is getting ready to send Toki aka Lolita back to her native waters

On Tuesday, a forum was held at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Miami to assess the wellbeing of the caged orca that has become a fan favorite at the Miami Seaquarium. The management of the Miami Seaquarium has finally come out in support of relocating Tokitae, also known as Toki or Lolita, an orca who is now 56 years old, to a marine pen in her natural seas. One option under discussion is upgrading the orca's habitat to one with greater space since she has outgrown her current tank's dimensions.

The challenges of moving Lolita

Sk'ali Ch'elh-tenaut, a famous orca, was separated from her pod in the Salish Sea fifty years ago. For a long time, Lummi leaders have been appealing for her safe return to the sea. Nevertheless, there are a lot of difficult obstacles to overcome before she can be relocated.

Toki, who has been battling with a major respiratory disease since retiring from performing in March, will need the approval of federal regulatory authorities like NOAA and the USDA before moving. Her health had declined so much that, at one point, she was battling death. Her condition has since stabilized thanks to a rare antibiotic that had to be shipped all the way from Japan. In spite of her progress, she occasionally has setbacks.

Miami coast during the day.

How Seaquarium is preparing for Lolita’s possible relocation

For the time being, the most important thing is to help Lolita feel at ease. The Seaquarium and Friends of Lolita have been working together to upgrade the aquatic environment in her tank by installing new purifiers and coolers that can lower the temperature to below 55°. She will need to adjust to these conditions when she returns to her home in the ocean.

Even though campaigners have been working for years to secure her release, they were disappointed with the slow pace of developments on Tuesday. They hope to hear positive outcomes and more proactiveness from the federal government regarding Toki's relocation.

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