Will Lolita Finally Retire in Peace and Dignity?
For over five decades, Lolita, (also known as Tokitae), the most famous orca in captivity, has lived just steps from the ocean in a tiny tank at Miami Seaquarium. And now, after a decades-long global movement to retire her to a seaside sanctuary, she may actually be heading home.
On March 30, 2023, a press conference was held by Miami Seaquarium, along with Florida non-profit Friends of Lolita and philanthropist and owner of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts Jim Irsay. During the conference, it was confirmed that Miami Seaquarium, managed by The Dolphin Company, entered into a formal and binding agreement with Friends of Lolita to return Lolita to an ocean sanctuary. According to a press release jointly issued by both parties, Lolita’s relocation is hoped to take place within the next 18-24 months.
“I read the press release with mixed emotions and cautious semi-optimism. We have been standing in the hot sun outside Miami Seaquarium protesting since the day Lolita arrived. None of the people involved in this announcement have. We’ll just have to wait and see how this one plays out. However, this does send a clear message to the captivity industry that it’s time to empty the tanks, including all of the tanks in the 31 captive dolphin facilities owned by The Dolphin Company.” ~ Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project
Lolita is the last surviving orca of the infamous Penn Cove, Washington State captures of 1970. After capture, she was shipped to Miami Seaquarium, where for almost 53 years, she has remained captive in the smallest orca tank in North America. The last orca she has ever seen was her companion, Hugo, who died in 1980. Miami Seaquarium has been promising to build Lolita a new tank since 1978. Despite Lolita being 20 feet long, her tank is only 80 feet across. Her exposure to the sun and weather violates Section 3.103(3)(b) of the Animal Welfare Act. Her tank is also 13 feet shorter than what is required by the Animal Welfare Act (Section 3.104).
Over the years of operation of Miami Seaquarium, the facility has been cited for numerous animal welfare issues relating to their captive dolphins and whales.
For decades, Dolphin Project has vigorously campaigned against the facility.
Featured image: Lolita circles in her tank at Miami Seaquarium. Credit: DolphinProject.com
Read the full Press Release.
Alleged Dolphin Abuse at Miami Seaquarium
10 Facts About Lolita
One Dolphin’s Story – Hugo