female killer whale
Orca “Lolita” should be released after 50 years – but that’s risky
A female orca that has lived in captivity for half a century is set to be released. However, for “Lolita” it is not without risk to give her freedom back.
This article first appeared on n-tv.
A female orca that has lived in an aquarium for more than 50 years is to be released back into the wild in the United States. This was announced by the owners of the Miami Seaquarium, where Tokitae lives. The move is a victory for animal rights organizations and indigenous people who have campaigned for years to ensure that the whale can live in freedom.
According to the aquarium, there is a “formal and binding agreement” with the Friends of Lolita aimed at repatriating the whale to Puget Sound. At the Miami Seaquarium, the female orca was named Lolita. A press release said it was “working towards and hoping that resettlement will be possible in the next 18 to 24 months”.
Orca was caught as a juvenile in the sea in 1970
Tokitae was caught in 1970 as a four-year-old calf in the calm waters off Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington state. She is now the oldest killer whale in captivity. For decades she lived in the Miami Seaquarium, the smallest orca enclosure in North America.
She appeared in shows for 52 years until she fell ill with an infection last year. According to animal rights activists, she was fed fish that was sometimes already spoiled, leading to intestinal problems. However, Miami Mayor Daniella Levine Cava emphasized that Tokitae has always been well taken care of. In recent years there have been repeated protest actions in front of the aquarium.
The release was made possible, among other things, by a “generous donation” from Jim Irsay, the owner of the NFL team Indianapolis Colts. “I know she wants to go out in the open water,” Irsay said at a news conference. “I don’t care what others say. She lived long enough to get this opportunity.”
It is uncertain whether the animal can survive the hardships associated with being released back into the wild. Among other things, a transport to the sea is imminent, which, among other things, must be approved by federal authorities. There, with the help of the non-profit organization Whale Sanctuary Project, an enclosure is to be built from which Tokitae is to be released into the wild after a transition phase. Experts fear the animal could spread infections it contracted in captivity to other killer whales. There are only 74 of the species left in the area. Some of them are believed to be relatives of the female whale from the earlier herd, including 90-year-old Valkuh, believed to be Tokitae’s mother.
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