The audience at the Miami Seaquarium watching Lolita the killer whale at its 40th anniversary performance in September 2010. Photo Credit: Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images

Animals USA27. April 2023

After 52 Years in Captivity, This Orca Is Retiring in Open Waters!

After spending more than half a century in captivity in a theme park in Florida, the United States, an orca whale will soon find its way back to open waters thanks to concerted efforts between a pro-animal philanthropist and an animal rights group.

“I’m excited to be a part of Lolita’s journey to freedom,” states philanthropist Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, who actively worked on the agreement. “I know Lolita wants to get to free waters.”

The orca – whose real name is Tokitae but performed under the stage name Lolita – was captured in Washington state’s Puget Sound in 1970 when she was a baby. For 52 years now, she has been living in a tank 24 meters in length, 11 meters wide, and six meters deep. Following 18 to 24 months of preparation in an ocean sanctuary – Lolita needs to learn how to fish and build up muscle as killer whales swim about 160 km on a daily basis – she could reunite with her mother, 90-year-old Ocean Sun, who still swims in Puget Sound. This upcoming reunion is possible through an agreement concluded between The Dolphin Company – the owner of the Seaquarium where the 57-year-old 2,267-kilogram orca is captive – and the Florida non-profit Friends of Toki. Despite the name, killer whales are highly social mammals with no natural predators. In 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration added killer whales to its endangered species list, boosting the quest for Lolita’s release into the wild.

The National News

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