Lolita, a killer whale, is set to be freed from the Miami Seaquarium and returned to her home waters in the Pacific Northwest.
The announcement came Thursday, March 30, after the operator of the Miami Seaquarium formally agreed to “bring to life the dream of returning Lolita to an ocean sanctuary.”
At the conference, the Florida aquarium said it has begun “the process of returning Toki to her home waters” by creating a legally binding agreement between the management for the Miami Sequarium, The Dolphin Company, and Friends of Toki (Lolita), a nonprofit organization created to help the killer whale.
“It has always been our commitment at The Dolphin Company that we place the highest priority on the well-being of animals, above all else,” said Eduardo Albor, CEO of The Dolphin Company. “Finding a better future for Lolita is one of the reasons that motivated us to acquire the Miami Seaquarium. With the help of Jim Irsay and Pritam Singh, we are bringing that dream, the dream of returning Lolita to her home waters, closer than ever.”
At 56, Lolita is one of the oldest orcas in captivity.
Animal activists have been fighting for her freedom for decades, arguing that she deserved to return to her home in the wild.
“It is a sacred privilege to share in the mission of caring for and bringing home Lolita, our beloved one,” said Pritam Singh, who leads Friends of Toki (Lolita), the animal rights group at the forefront of the animal rights efforts.
Owner and CEO of the Indianapolis Colts Jim Irsay’s philanthropists efforts and partnership with The Dolphin Company assisted with “a generous contribution” with freeing the orca.
Irsay teased the news in a Thursday Twitter post, writing, “Dinner before today’s Lolita press conference in Miami Beach! Key players in the massive plan to finally FREE this 8000 lb killer whale, Lolita!!”
Following the announcement of Lolita’s return to the waters in the Pacific Northwest, animal rights group PETA applauded their efforts to “reduce suffering.”
“It may be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, but Jim Irsay shows it can be done.” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk wrote in a press release. “May anyone with the resources to do good things like this open their heart as he has done, find a way to reduce suffering, and bring happiness to others, regardless of their race, color, gender, or species.”
In 2021, the USDA released a report criticizing the Miami Seaquarium’s care of the animal, citing that Lolita was fed less than the recommended amount, wasn’t taking in enough water, as well as disrepair at her pool.
The massive animal, also lives in one of North America’s smallest whale tanks, according to The Guardian.
According to The Dolphin Company, Lolita will be relocated in the next 18 to 24 months.
Lolita is receiving round-the-clock care by a team of dedicated, highly-skilled, medical, nutrition and behavior experts.
Her most recent independent health and welfare assessment indicated that “her energy, appetite and engagement in daily activities is becoming reasonably stable.”
“The leadership of Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, since the transfer of ownership of Marine Seaquarium, has been instrumental in bringing our worlds together,” Albor said. “With the support of all parties, the continued health of Lolita and approvals from the appropriate authorities, we are all committed to giving this beautiful orca a new home and a peaceful future.”