Wild Nature

published : 2023-10-19

Lolita the Captive Orca Dies from Old Age and Chronic Illnesses

Necropsy Reveals Kidney Failure as Cause of Death

Lolita the orca swimming gracefully in her enclosure at Miami Seaquarium (taken with Canon EOS R)

After more than 50 years in captivity, Lolita, the beloved orca also known as Tokitae or Toki, has passed away at the age of 57.

Lolita's death, attributed to old age and multiple chronic illnesses, was confirmed by a report released by the Miami Seaquarium on Tuesday.

Her lifeless body was transported to the University of Georgia, where a necropsy was carried out the following day.

The results of the examination, shared in an executive summary by the Seaquarium, supported earlier reports that kidney failure was the primary cause of her demise.

In addition to kidney failure, the necropsy revealed that Lolita suffered from acute and chronic bronchointerstitial pneumonia, as well as renal degeneration, and indications of cardiac valve degeneration.

Animal rights activists protesting outside Miami Seaquarium, advocating for Lolita's release (taken with Nikon D850)

Animal rights activists had long been advocating for Lolita's release from her confinement at the Seaquarium.

In a joint effort by the park's new owner, The Dolphin Company, and the nonprofit organization Friends of Toki, a plan was put forth in March to possibly relocate her to a natural sea pen in the Pacific Northwest.

This ambitious plan, financially backed by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, aimed to provide Lolita with a more natural environment and freedom.

As a condition of the park's new exhibitor's license with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Lolita had retired from performing last spring and had not been publicly displayed since.

Furthermore, the Seaquarium had invested in recent upgrades to enhance the filtration system and regulate water temperature in Lolita's tank.

Lolita's majestic dorsal fin emerging from the water during a captivating performance (taken with Sony Alpha A7R III)

Moving Lolita to a new location would require approval from federal and state regulators, which could have been a lengthy process.

However, the opportunity for Lolita to experience life outside her 80 by 35 feet, 20-foot-deep enclosure was a glimmer of hope for her supporters.

Let this be remembered as the final chapter in the captivating tale of Lolita, the orca who captured hearts and inspired a movement for the rights of captive marine animals.