Orca Tokitae (also known as Lolita) has sadly died of suspected renal failure after many decades held in captivity, and not long after plans to potentially release her into a sanctuary were announced.
Tokitae was also given the name Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut by the Lummi Nation of Washington State. She died at the Miami Seaquarium after being kept in tanks for over 50 years, and alone for much of that time.
‘We’re devastated to hear this sad news. Her story of suffering for human entertainment must be a catalyst for change - whales and dolphins must not be keep kept in tanks,’ says Luke McMillan, WDC’s head of hunting and captivity. ‘Her legacy only makes us more determined to ensure that to stop the captivity of whales and dolphins around the world forever.’
She was the second longest surviving orca in captivity after Corky and her story is a tragic one – a life far from that which she would have experienced if left free in the ocean. She is included on the endangered species listing for the Southern resident population of orcas living off the north-west coast of the US after being taken from this population in 1970 during the cruel and infamous Penn Cove captures, which resulted in several orca deaths.
The Miami Seaquarium announced this year that plans were being discussed to relocate her into an ocean sanctuary in the next two years following a large donation.
Sanctuaries offer the chance to rehabilitate captive whales and dolphins into natural environments around the world and end the cruel practice of keeping them in tanks for ‘entertainment’.
This would not be the first ocean sanctuary project. WDC helped to establish the world’s first beluga whale sanctuary in Iceland with The SEA LIFE Trust and is working in partnership with other sanctuary projects.