An agreement to return Lolita to her home after 50 years in captivity was reached between the Miami Seaquarium, the non-profit organisation Friends of Lolita and Jim Irsay, Owner of the National Football League’s Indianapolis Colts.
At 57, Lolita, also known as Tokitae, is the oldest orca in captivity and was sold to the Seaquarium for just $6,000 in 1970.
A report released by the US Department of Agriculture in November 2021 identified several issues with the conditions Lolita and the other animals were kept in at the aquarium, including being fed rotting fish, poor water quality, and “critical” pool issues.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2021, whale researcher and activist Howard Garret, who has advocated for Lolita’s release for several decades, said that it was “against all odds she’s still alive…”
Plans are now in place for Lolita’s reintegration into the wild, where it is believed her mother is still alive. The reintegration could take up to 2 years and cost up to $20 million as Lolita will be kept under 24-hour surveillance and re-taught how to hunt.
On Thursday, ‘The Dolphin Company’, which owns Miami Seaquarium issued a statement to their Twitter account where they announced that they were “proud to share they had entered into a formal and binding agreement with Friends of Lolita to Change Lolita’s future”.
— The Dolphin Company (@TheDolphinCo_) March 30, 2023