Miami Seaquarium’s captive orca Lolita may soon head back to wild

VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. – The Miami Seaquarium’s famed orca Lolita could soon be on the move, as there are plans in the works to free her from captivity.

This comes following the passing of another killer whale in captivity in Canada.

It is not known if that has anything to do with the announcement coming later this week, but whatever the case may be, it seems like the stars are finally aligning for Lolita and those who say her return home is well overdue.

After living in captivity for over half a century, the day may be almost here for the whale — also known as Toki — to return home.

The 56-year-old orca stopped performing last year but still remains in her 80-foot-long and 35-foot-wide tank at the Miami Seaquarium.

Calls for her return to native waters in the Pacific Northwest have only intensified.

“She’s suffered a lot, you know?” said animal activist Alejandro Dintino. “Where her pod is located, her mother is still alive.”

Local 10 News is now learning an announcement on the efforts to free Toki is scheduled for Thursday.

“It’s incredible. I don’t have words to describe how happy I feel at this moment,” said Dintino, who has been one of many loud voices behind the push.

Back in December, Local 10 News’ Louis Aguirre broke the news that the new Seaquarium owner said he was committed to the effort to free Lolita.

Asked if the Dolphin Company is committed to seeing her retire in a sea pen in her native waters, CEO Eduardo Albor said, “That’s a great question and the answer is 100% -- 100% committed.”

Experts on the matter tell Local 10 News the orca’s return to its native waters would be a complex endeavor and require a series of processes to get Toki re-acclimated to the wild.

Federal regulatory agencies like NOAA and the USDA would also have to approve.

“She will make it,” Dintino said. “Because you know Lolita, Toki, is a symbol of struggle and perseverance.”

So, how exactly do you move a 7,000-pound orca from South Florida to the Pacific Northwest?

It’s one of many questions that should be answered at Thursday’s news conference.

About the Author:

Christian De La Rosa joined Local 10 News in April 2017 after spending time as a reporter and anchor in Atlanta, San Diego, Orlando and Panama City Beach.