Lolita the Orca Dies at the Miami Seaquarium

Captured from her wild family as a juvenile, Lolita endured decades of inhumane conditions, spurring protests and numerous legal actions to help her.

Lolita, the orca who was captured from her home waters as a juvenile and held captive for more than five decades in a tiny, barren tank at the Miami Seaquarium, died August 18, 2023, of suspected renal failure, according to the Seaquarium.

Lolita — also known as Tokitae (Toki), and named Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut by members of the Lummi Nation, an Indigenous group based in the Pacific Northwest region from which she was captured — was for decades the focus of numerous efforts from the Animal Legal Defense Fund and other animal advocates to release her from cruel confinement at the Seaquarium and transfer her to a seaside sanctuary with conditions more closely resembling her early life in the wild.

“We mourn Lolita’s passing and, in her honor, continue the fight against the cruel captivity that marked her life,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Interim Executive Director Kera Melrose. “Lolita suffered for decades in inhumane and unlawful conditions at the Miami Seaquarium. She was denied the ability to live like an orca should — in the company of her family, in her home waters, swimming the great distances that wild orcas swim every day. Motivated by the desire for financial gain, humans denied her this opportunity. Now, we must ensure that Lolita is the last orca ever to suffer for the Miami Seaquarium’s profits.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund — in collaboration with other animal protection organizations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Orca Network, as well as several individual plaintiffs — had in multiple lawsuits and other actions over the course of more than a decade fought to improve Lolita’s circumstances and hold federal agencies accountable for failing to enforce their own laws and regulations to protect her from inadequate, inhumane care and conditions.

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