Tuesday April 23, 2024

Orca released after 50 years will reunite with family soon

Jim Irsay, the Indianapolis Colts, said the cost of relocating Miami Seaquarium killer whale could reach eight figures

By Web Desk
April 01, 2023
Trainer Marcia Hinton pets Lolita, a captive orca whale, during a performance at the Miami Seaquarium in Miami, March 9, 1995.— AFP
Trainer Marcia Hinton pets Lolita, a captive orca whale, during a performance at the Miami Seaquarium in Miami, March 9, 1995.— AFP 

Lolita, the orca (killer whale) who mesmerised tens of thousands of spectators at the Miami Seaquarium with her amazing acrobatics, will be returned to its native home in the Pacific Northwest after fifty years in captivity, reported CNN.

Officials disputed its origin and where it belonged after it was pulled from the seas in 1970.

Finally, on Thursday, it was determined that Lolita, also known as Tokitae or Toki, will be returned to the ocean following the agreement of numerous stakeholders.

Speaking of the orca, Miami Seaquarium in a statement said: "Lolita will receive the highest quality care as the team works to make relocation possible in the next 18 to 24 months."

— Miami Herald
— Miami Herald

"I know Lolita wants to get to free waters. I don’t care what anyone says. She’s lived this long to have this opportunity. And my only mission is (…) to help this whale get free," said Jim Irsay, the Indianapolis Colts owner who is helping to pay for Lolita's move.

Irsay also said that the cost of relocating the Miami Seaquarium killer whale could reach eight figures.

Lolita's tank

The announcement was made at a press conference addressed by Eduardo Albor, CEO of The Dolphin Company — operating the Miami Seaquarium, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava; and other members of Friends of Lolita.

According to Miami Seaquarium, the orca released after 50 years was 57 years old.

The killer whale's tank is 80 feet long and 35 feet wide and it remains in it as it has not performed for a year.

The life expectancy of the orca is up to 90 years and it weighs up to 11 tons and can grow up to 32 feet, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Its 95-year-old mother is also believed to be alive in the ocean.

According to CNN, the natural sea area for Lolita's release has been identified as where its family still swims.

Charles Vinick, the executive director of the Whale Sanctuary Project said that “[There's] the opportunity for her to acoustically connect with her family, without a doubt. So, acoustically, yes, and potentially physically over time.”

The whale will be housed in a natural sea pen in Washington state and will remain under monitoring and observation where it will be taught to hunt for its prey.

“That hopefully will lead to eventually her getting out of the gate, getting free, getting with her pod,” Jim Irsay said.

“We’re here because we all care deeply about the health and well-being of this beautiful creature, and I’m very happy to be here for this historic announcement to begin the process to return Toki to her home waters,” the mayor said. “So many have worked prayed and hoped for this result for many, many years. The most important thing is Toki's long-term well-being and together, guided by the experts, we’ll continue to do what is best for her.”

Lolita as a 'symbol'

Miami Seaquarium was acquired by the Dolphin Company after the dispute over Lolita.

CEO Albor said in the press conference while recalling a visit with her daughter at the seaquarium that his commitment began then when her daughter got upset about its captivity.

“This is beyond Lolita. She is going to become a symbol.”