Captive orca Lolita’s health improves giving hope for freedom

The environmentalist and philanthropist who watches over Tokitae, also known as the Miami Seaquarium’s Lolita, had encouraging news Thursday.

MIAMI – The environmentalist and philanthropist who watches over Tokitae, also known as the Miami Seaquarium’s Lolita, had encouraging news Friday.

“Right now all of her vital signs are good and she is active and she remains the extraordinary survivor that she’s been for 50-plus years,” said Pritnam Singh, the co-founder friend of Lolita, a nonprofit working with the Miami Seaquarium on the care for Tokitae.

New drone footage shows the 56-year-old orca who’s been kept there for 53 years, is doing well, Singh said.

“In terms of her appetite, it’s coming back strong. She ate I believe 50 pounds yesterday. We’re looking at potentially 75 pounds today, so her appetite is coming back,” Sing said.

Though far shy from the 160 pounds she’s used to eating daily, she has reportedly become more active and responsive after the Miami Seaquarium posted this alarming health update on its Facebook page 12 days ago claiming that she had lost her appetite and was suffering from a recurring respiratory infection.

“What she experienced a little over 10 days, 12 days ago, was a downturn and now she has rebounded, as she has many times in the past, and everything looks very positive, but she still has that infection,” said Charles Vinick, co-founder of Friends of Lolita.

And though her tank still looks dirty and green in color, the group insists the water is good.

“All of the filters have been changed. There are new chillers being put in. They are paying a lot of attention, and a lot of effort and money is being spent and has been spent on the water quality,” Singh said.

Tokitae officially retired from performing back in March, when the Miami Seaquarium was sold to its new owners, The Dolphin Company.

Now Friends of Lolita claims these new owners are on board with a plan to eventually move Tokitae out of the Miami Seaquarium and back to the Salish Sea where she was taken from her family when she was barely four years old.

“First step: get her health stabilized. and then the second step, keep it stabilized and then look at a potential future move, which of course has to be done with her interest, first and foremost at heart, but also you’ve got the federal government and regulations,” Singh said.

The plan is to move her to a natural sea pen, where she would have much more room to swim, receive the same care and food that she does now, and have the possibility of reuniting with her family — the L-pod, a larger group of orcas that swim in the Pacific Northwest.

“We’ve identified really three different sites, all of which are possible, following the engagement of both federal and state government. Then a proponent can identify and begin to permit one of those three sites,” Vinick said.

Singh said they think it can be done.

“She’s an extraordinary creature, to have the will to live as long as she has in the circumstances she has lived,” Singh said. “Whatever we can do, whatever we must do, we will make every effort to get her back there.”

The Miami Seaquarium has yet to confirm the plan, but Friends of Lolita say the seaquarium will be part of a joint announcement next week about an upcoming conference with all the stakeholders that will outline the plan to move Tokitae out of the Miami Seaquarium and to that seaside sanctuary, provided her health continues to improve.


About the Author:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.