US aquarium returning captive orca to waters off BC coast 50 years later

Mar 31 2023, 8:01 pm

An orca named Lolita is set to be released from a Florida aquarium where she’s lived for the past 50 years and returned to the waters off BC and Washington State.

Miami Seaquarium announced Thursday that it had entered a binding agreement with the non-profit Friends of Lolita (also known as Friends of Toki) to return the killer whale to her native habitat within 24 months.

“It has always been our commitment at The Dolphin Company that we place the highest priority on the well-being of animals, above all else,” Dolphin Company CEO Eduardo Albor said in a news release.

The Dolphin Company recently took over management of the Miami Seaquarium, and Albor said securing a better future for Lolita motivated him to acquire the aquarium.

The move is being made possible in part because of a donation from Jim Irsay, owner and CEO of the Indianapolis Colts NFL team.

“The story of Lolita the orca has been near and dear to my heart. I am proud—-and enthusiastic—-to play a role in finally returning Lolita to her native Pacific Northwest,” Irsay said.

Lolita also goes by the name Tokitae, and the Florida-based non-profit has been fighting for a better life for her for a long time. It brought in independent experts to assess her health in captivity, following reports in 2021 and 2022 that suggested she was gravely ill with a respiratory infection.
The group has worked with the aquarium to secure medication for the orca and change her enclosure to make the pH more closely match normal marine ranges.

Lolita (or Toki) is believed to be in her 50s. Orcas typically live to be 50 to 90, so she could have decades of life left in the wild.

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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