VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. – There are conflicting reports about the health of Lolita, the 56-year-old orca that lives at the Miami Seaquarium.
The seaquarium says the health of the orca, also known as Toki, is improving and receiving the best possible care, but a recent former employee who spoke to Local 10 News is refuting that and believes the orca will never get better unless she gets out of the seaquarium.
That former employee asked Local 10 News to conceal their identity.
New drone video taken over the holiday weekend showed Lolita inside the tank that’s been her home for 52 years.
Tokitae, or Toki, was placed on 24-hour watch last Wednesday night after reports surfaced that she has pneumonia, and according to PETA could die any day.
“If she was in some sort of condition to be able to move to health wise, I think it’s super important,” the former employee said.
That person is accusing the park of not being transparent about the critical state of Toki’s health.
“All of the lies, you couldn’t keep up with them,” the former employee said when asked by Local 10′s Louis Aguirre why they quit. “They just didn’t seem to care about the basics or the fundamentals of taking care of an animal.”
And according to the former employee, that includes taking proper care of Toki.
But the seaquarium refutes that and released a statement to Local 10 News that read, in part:
“While her veterinary team is optimistic, it is important to keep in mind that as animals age, their immune systems weaken, making them more susceptible to disease and more difficult to combat and recover from illness...She is constantly monitored closely by her team of dedicated and loving caregivers.”
The former employee says that is a flat out lie.
“There’s no transparency at the Seaquarium, everybody’s lying,” they said.
In fact, the former employee says Toki’s health began to decline when abrupt changes were made to her diet and training, which happened when a new training curator was brought aboard in December of 2020.
“Everybody just listened to her because she had all these years of experience at SeaWorld, but in retrospect, she wasn’t making good decisions,” the former employee said.
According to a recent USDA inspection report from June, it was the training curator who came in and cut Toki’s diet by 30 pounds.
“She was talking to all the trainers from all the other parks, and that the killer whales at SeaWorld, none of them were on this much food and that we were stuffing her like a pig,” the former employee said.
Not only was Toki’s food cut, but the training curator also made her perform more jumps and fast swims.
The former employee said it make Toki angry.
“You could see it in the whale, she was irritated and aggravated and fast swimming,” they said.
Local 10 News also obtained a recent video of Toki aggressively chasing one of two pacific white sided dolphins, known as lags that share her tank, at one point slamming it against the wall.
Seven months later, one of the dolphins, Catalina, was found dead.
“Everybody thinks that she’s just playing, Toki’s just playing, but that’s not playing. I mean, now there’s a lag that’s dead. She’s clearly not playing,” the former employee said, adding that it’s their belief that Lolita is who killed the dolphin. “Absolutely. No doubt in my mind. No doubt.”
The seaquarium is not commenting has repeatedly denied numerous requests for interviews for this story.
As for the former employee, they acknowledge the risk in coming forward.
“I’m tired of seeing and hearing about all these animals dying at the seaquarium. Enough is enough. It shouldn’t take Toki dying for people to actually get upset,” they said.
Local 10 News attempted to speak with the training curator, and while she did agree to be interviewed, the seaquarium would not let her speak.
The full statement from Miami Seaquarium can be read below:
“Toki, also known as Lolita, is believed to be 56 years old, which would make her the oldest killer whale living under human care and the second-oldest orca of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population. Toki’s unprecedented longevity speaks to the quality care she receives.
“We have continued to closely monitor Toki’s condition since we last provided updates on February 7 and 8. This includes periods of around the clock monitoring, which has been instituted at times since she began feeling under the weather. 24-hour-observation is an important and common practice utilized when an animal is feeling unwell, especially one such as Toki, who is well beyond the average life expectancy of her species. Overnight monitoring allows our care teams to obtain respiratory rates, note behavior changes or whether an animal is resting comfortably. Toki has been resting comfortably overnight and steadily improving. Like any geriatric animal or human, however, some days are better than others. We are encouraged by her eating, participating in interactions and enrichment sessions with her trainers, and continued enjoyment of her play sessions. While her veterinary team is optimistic, it is important to keep in mind that as animals age, their immune systems weaken, making them more susceptible to disease and more difficult to combat and recover from illness.
“Toki continues to undergo regular diagnostics to have the most complete and up to date understanding of her condition as possible. She is constantly monitored closely by her team of dedicated and loving caregivers. We will continue monitoring Toki in such a way, as we do with all our geriatric animals, and will provide an update if there is a noteworthy change in her status.