Ambitious plan to free captive orca Lolita announced
The new owner of the Miami Seaquarium in the US has announced that it is exploring plans to release captive orca Tokitae, also known as Lolita, back into a sea sanctuary in her home waters of the Pacific Northwest.
Tokitae has been held captive in a tank for over 50 years and kept alone for most of that time. She is the second longest surviving orca in captivity after Corky.
Her story is a tragic one and her 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.
Dolphin Co, which recently took over ownership of the Miami Seaquarium said it is working toward relocating her in the next two years, announcing that it has agreed to explore a move to an ocean sanctuary as part of a partnership with a not-for-profit group called Friends of Toki, made possible following a large donation.
Plans for her care and location are not clear yet and there are many obstacles that need to be overcome before any move can be made.
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. It is hoped these initiatives will help to encourage the rehabilitation of more captive whales and dolphins into natural environments around the world, and end the cruel practice of keeping whales and dolphins in tanks for entertainment.