A pledge to move Lolita the killer whale from Miami Seaquarium, with Jim Irsay’s help
Excerpt from The Miami Herald:
Obstacles remain, including the logistics of transporting the ailing 57-year-old, 7,000-pound orca from coast to coast and preparing her to live in the wild after five decades in captivity. But Seaquarium plans to announce a “historic initiative” Thursday to “return beloved orca Lolita to her home waters” with funding for the expensive relocation from a new donor, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.
The goal is to place Lolita — also known by her Native American name Tokitae and nickname Toki — back in the sea and reunite her with her family, the L pod of southern resident orcas. She was captured in Penn Cove off the coast of Washington in 1970 when she was about 4 years old.
“If she is healthy enough to be transported, the issue is her skill set,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado, who has been an advocate for Lolita and improvements at Seaquarium. “She doesn’t know how to catch or hunt. We’re not really sure if she can communicate with other whales because she’s been alone. Now we kind of have to retrain her.”
Lolita’s trainers at the marine park in Virginia Key could be key to the plan, and borrow the methods used to move Keiko — the movie “Free Willy” was based on Keiko’s story — from a marine park tank in Mexico, to an aquarium pool in Oregon, and, in 1998, via a U.S. Air Force cargo plane, to a sea pen in Iceland, from where Keiko later swam to Norway and lived in the ocean for five years before dying of pneumonia.
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