VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. – Miami Seaquarium’s beloved killer whale Lolita is sick.
The Seaquarium confirmed to Local 10 News that the famed whale is receiving around-the-clock care.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, sounded the alarm Sunday, posting a tweet that said Lolita could “die any day.”
“We learned this weekend, reported by an anonymous whistleblower, that Lolita is suffering from pneumonia,” said Jared Goodman, an attorney representing PETA.
The 56-year-old killer whale, originally known as Tokitae, has been inside the world’s smallest orca tank at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970.
And for as long as she’s been there, PETA and other advocates have been calling for her release.
“Lolita’s condition right now is concerning,” Goodman said.
The Seaquarium released a statement to Local 10 News on Tuesday from their attending veterinarian, stopping short of calling Lolita’s illness pneumonia but acknowledging that she is ill.
The statement read:
“As we do with all geriatric animals, Toki regularly undergoes routine diagnostics such as bloodwork and ultrasound examinations to best monitor her health. During one of these routine checks, we noticed some abnormalities on her bloodwork, which prompted treatment as she began to feel under the weather. Despite her very advanced age, she has been steadily improving and feeling much better.”
Whale shows have been put on hold for the past few months, but aerial views from her tank Tuesday morning show Lolita interacting with trainers inside her tank.
“Most orcas die very young in captivity, but Lolita has somehow managed to survive, notwithstanding that she has not been able to thrive,” said Goodman.
This comes months after a scathing USDA inspection report back in June that found issues including pools in disrepair, injured and sick animals and that Lolita was made to perform fast swims and big jumps despite her age and a jaw injury.
Since then, a focused follow-up inspection a month later found “no non-compliant items.”