Lolita, The Loneliest & Oldest Orca In Captivity, Dies Before Being Released Back Into Her Home Waters

Lolita, The Loneliest & Oldest Orca In Captivity, Dies Before Being Released Back Into Her Home Waters

For over 50 years, a female orca named Lolita (also called Tokitae) has lived in captivity at Miami Seaquarium where she was forced to perform tricks twice a day until she was retired in 2022.

She was captured off the coast of the Pacific Northwest when she was just 4 years old and has spent the past five decades in a small tank waiting to be set free.

She has been called the "loneliest orca in the world" as she hasn't seen another orca in years. The unnatural living conditions took a toll on her physical and mental health.

Animal rights groups petitioned for her release, and it was finally granted earlier this year. However, she passed away before she was able to swim free in her home waters in Greater Puget Sound once more.

Miami Seaquarium announced on X (formerly Twitter) that Toki (Lolita) had passed away. "Over the last two days, Toki started exhibiting serious signs of discomfort, which her full Miami Seaquarium and Friends of Toki medical team began treating immediately and aggressively. Despite receiving the best possible medical care, she passed away Friday afternoon..."

The Seaquarium wrote in the comments that they believe Lolita died from a "renal condition". They closed on Saturday for staff to mourn her loss and wrote, "Toki was an inspiration to all who had the fortune to hear her story and especially to the Lummi nation that considered her family. Those who have had the privilege to spend time with her will forever remember her beautiful spirit."

People around the world were heartbroken by the news and openly shared their opinions on her captivity in the comments.

@lumisslykaon stated, "This poor angel is finally free! You let her suffer for 53 years, alone in this tiny hell of a tank. She did not deserve this horrific life. My heart is broken 💔".

@gomezphd wrote, "The passing of Toki (Lolita) serves as a sad reminder of the enduring tragedy that began with her capture and separation from her family. It is my hope that this tragedy will prompt serious reflection on our stewardship of wildlife..."

The 57-year-old orca will never be forgotten. Orca Network fought for her release for decades and was preparing for her return to natal waters where she could swim and dive freely. Marine Biologist Ken Balcomb created a "Comprehensive Retirement Plan" to ensure Lolita was happy and healthy.

The people who fought for her freedom were devastated by her death. Orca Network posted on their website, "With heavy hearts and tears in our eyes Orca Network shares and confirms the news that Tokitae/ Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut/Lolita, passed away Friday, August 18, 2023 at the Miami Seaquarium around 4 pm Eastern Time, surrounded by her loving care team and veterinarians, who did everything they could to save her after a very short illness."

They went on to say, "One thing that brings us comfort is knowing that yesterday, as Toki began struggling and was on her journey home to the next world, her entire family was off the west side of San Juan Island in what these days is a rare gathering, with all three pods swimming up and down the island, socializing in a Superpod; and the L12s are still there today. This is often a cultural/social ritual to mark a significant event in their community, and we believe they were welcoming her home."

Rest in peace, Lolita.

Orcas belong in the ocean, not in small tanks for human entertainment. Sign this petition to urge SeaWorld to release their captive orcas.

Andrea Powell

Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast who resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.

Back to blog