Lolita the killer whale has been thrilling crowds at the Miami Seaquarium for five decades, but these days, the orca known officially as Toki is taking it easy, out of public view, because she’s been ill.
The Seaquarium would not allow NBC 6 on its property and did not agree to an interview, but did release a video statement, which featured two trainers discussing Toki’s health and care.
“We are feeling encouraged with her improving bloodwork, she’s interacting with her trainers, she’s interacting with her toys, she’s eating,” one of the trainers said.
In a written statement, the Seaquarium said in part, “Toki’s unprecedented longevity speaks to the quality care she receives … She continues to exhibit normal behaviors and activity levels and has maintained a good appetite … As with any animal who has exceeded their anticipated life span, we will continue to monitor and care for her closely.”
Toki was taken from the waters of Washington state when she was about four years old. She’s estimated to be 56 now, a senior citizen and the oldest killer whale in captivity.
“She has pneumonia. She is getting better, but she has been very sick and she’s an older whale, we’ve known that the tank is small and there’s a lot of issues for some time, but the county was never really in a place to do anything about it, and I think that that’s changing,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Raquel Regalado.
She says since the county owns the land, it should have more of a say about what happens to the Seaquarium animals, especially now that the county has approved a lease transfer. The Seaquarium’s owners are selling to another company.
Regalado is asking her colleagues on the commission to require the park to allow an independent veterinarian to examine Toki.
“I want to see them agree to a third-party vet, right now, without having the county commission have to approve my item, and then ideally I would like my colleagues to support my amendment to the lease so that when we work with the new owners," Regalado said. "We have that opportunity, not just with Toki but with other animals, if we’re concerned about their health we can send in a third-party person and that person can report, irrespective of who’s at fault, as to the health of the animals."
For years, animal rights activists have said Lolita should be moved back to her home pod in Puget Sound, saying her pool is much too small.
“We’re not there yet,” Regalado said. “Right now we’re concerned about her health, we need to know about her current environment, and then we need to have an assessment of what she can and cannot do.”
The Seaquarium also has to fix violations discovered by a USDA inspection last summer by a USDA inspection. The feds came back recently to check on Toki, and the USDA is expected to release a new report in the coming days.