Health concerns grow for Miami Seaquarium’s orca, Lolita

Miami Seaquarium's famed orca, Lolita is believed to now be on a 24-hour watch.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Concern is growing over the health of Miami Seaquarium’s Lolita the orca.

The beloved 56-year-old orca -- also known as Tokitae -- is reported to be in declining health.

Lolita’s condition has been declining for quite some time now, but matters seems to be getting worse recently.

The Miami Seaquarium posted a statement on Facebook, saying in part,

“Medication has stabilized Toki’s health after the respiratory condition she experienced early this year. While not considered critical, her appetite has decreased. With guidance from Toki’s vet, as well as the foremost marine mammal experts in the world, extra precautions are being taken.”

Sources close to Local 10 News report the lights were on at her enclosure all night Saturday into Sunday, which insiders say is a move that means the orca is now on a 24-hour watch.

Howard Garrett, president and co-founder of the Orca Network, is among those with concerns over how serious Lolita’s condition is.

“It’s been a completely closed fortress all this time,” Garrett said. “We don’t have any idea what is going on inside there.”

This past February, Lolita suffered a respiratory illness, which she has since recovered from.

“For the last week she’s had around the clock attention and care,” Friends of Lolita co-founder Pritam Singh said.

Singh said he spent time with Lolita on Saturday. She continues to fight an infection and is currently on antibiotics.

“Yes, it’s very concerning to us,” Singh said. “From what I’ve heard from the vets and everyone there, it’s not critical, it is concerning.”

Singh says everyone involved in her care hopes long-term that she can be returned to her native waters after spending five decades in captivity, but the immediate goal is to get her healthy.

“She could have come home at any time and I’m very sorry if she can’t come home now,” Garrett said.

The Miami Seaquarium is expected to provide updates on her condition.

About the Authors:

Gio Insignares joined the Local 10 News team in May 2021 as an anchor and reporter. He’ll be co-anchoring the new WSFL Morning Newscast, Monday-Friday from 7-9 a.m., and also contribute to other WPLG newscasts.

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.