Lolita the orca dies captive

22 August 2023


Born Free is extremely sad to hear that Lolita, an orca held at Miami Seaquarium for the past 50 years, has reportedly died from kidney failure, just as plans were apparently underway to try and release her.

Lolita, also known as Tokitae or Toki, was captured from the wild in 1970. She was one of many dozens of wild orcas who were rounded up, ripped from their families, and sent to captive facilities to be trained to perform tricks. She was just four years old when caught. 

Lolita’s plight at Miami Seaquarium has drawn huge international attention over the years. Since her companion Hugo, another wild-caught orca, died in 1980, Lolita has lived alone. Her confinement to a tiny concrete tank, known as the ‘whale bowl’, and images of her performing demeaning tricks in shows to entertain the paying public, have been widely distributed.

Animal welfare advocates, notably the group ‘Friends of Toki’, fought for years to try and secure Lolita’s release from her living hell. Earlier this year, it was announced that the new owners of Miami Seaquarium had agreed to work with orca experts with the aim of returning Lolita to the sea, where she could be rehabilitated at an ocean sanctuary between Washington and Canada and taught how to survive in the wild where she belonged. Amazingly, Lolita’s wild mother is still believed to be alive at the age of 93. Sadly, mother and daughter will never be reunited.

Born Free has long campaigned for an end to the keeping of cetaceans (orcas, dolphins, and porpoises) in captivity. We continue to work with animal welfare coalitions and individuals around the world, calling for national and international legislation to bring the exploitation of cetaceans in captivity to an end. We support the development of high-quality ‘seaside’ sanctuaries to provide improved lifetime care for those animals remaining in captivity who cannot be released to the wild.

Sarah Jefferson, Born Free’s Captivity Campaigns Information Coordinator, said: “Lolita’s story, her wild capture, her life of solitude and confinement, and now her death, is a tragic reminder of why orcas and other cetaceans should never be held captive for human entertainment. Their capture from the wild and forced breeding to maintain the captive industry must end now.”

Please don’t support the captivity of orcas and other cetaceans by visiting outdated shows and facilities, or by taking part in interactive close-contact and swim-with activities. More information on the captive exploitation of cetaceans, and on what you can do to help Born Free bring this travesty to a permanent end, can be found by clicking on the button below.