Whale Wednesday: Spotlight on Lolita/Tokitae

Welcome to another Whale Wednesday, everyone!

This week, we will be looking at the life of one of the saddest, loneliest whales on the planet, Lolita.

Lolita measures in at 21 foot long and weighs in at 7,000 pounds. She has been in captivity since the age of four when she was captured and taken to Miami Seaquarium in1970. She is also the oldest orca in captivity, at between 49-51 years of age, she might just be a little bit older than Corky II.

2- Lolita

Her Capture

Lolita was one of several whales caught during a capture in Penn Cove, Pudget Sound in Washington on August 8th , 1970. She was just four years old.

Originally, 80 other orcas from her pod were corralled and netted, with the seven picked out from the group and sold to marine parks across the world.

Image from Wikipedia

Originally, Lolita was named Tokitae and was sold to the Miami Seaquarium for 20,000 dollars and eventually became tank-mates with a fellow Southern Resident Orca named Hugo.

Hugo had lived in the park for two years prior to Lolita’s arrival at the park and lived by her side for 10 long years before Hugo died on March 4th, 1980 from a brain aneurysm which occurred after he repeatedly hit his head on the walls of the tank,

Shortly after her arrival at the marine park, Lolita’s name was changed from Tokitae to Lolita, apparently after the heroine in Vladimir Nabokov’s novel of the same name by The Miami News.

Her Tank

Lolita spends her days in a 35 by 80 foot tank which is 20 foot deep- not even deep enough for Lolita to remain in a vertical position without her tail curling on the bottom of the tank.

Her tank is known as the Whale Bowl- a haunting similarity to a regular fishbowl.

Her tank violates the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Animal Welfare standards for the size of Lolita, which require a tank which is a minimum of 48 feet wide and 48 feet deep.

Despite much criticism and multiple promises of building a new tank for Lolita over span of 25 years, nothing has ever become of the promises.

The tank also doesn’t protect her from the hot Florida sun, resulting in her skin becoming blistered and burned.

Is She Really the Loneliest Orca on the Planet?

The social structure of Orca (in fact all cetaceans) is well documented, and many studies have proved that these marine mammals live incredibly social lives, with many calves refusing to leave their mothers side in the pod.

Imagine, then, how Lolita must feel; living in a tank with no other Orca to communicate or interact with for over 35 years. She does share a tank with 2 Pacific White Sided Dolphins, but these animals would never naturally interact in the wild.

Even the orca who are in SeaWorld parks have access to other orca, even though they are generally different eco types and use different languages, they have some of their kind. The obvious SeaWorld exception is Tilikum, however.

Lolita’s wild family never recovered from the abduction of whales from their pod in the 1970’s and they are now considered endangered.

Lolita’s story is one which breaks my heart. There is no point in me describing how to identify her as I have previously done with Corky, as theres only one killer whale at Miami Seaquarium… and that’s her.

If you would like to help Lolita and get her out of her tiny, goldfish bowl sized, concrete prison, please head over to the Orca Project site and read up on how you can help give her the life that she deserves.

As always, connect with me on Facebook and Twitter – I’m always up for a chat and I love talking to new people!

One whale at a time, we can end orca captivity… and the captivity of all cetaceans!

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2 thoughts on “Whale Wednesday: Spotlight on Lolita/Tokitae

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