Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Orca Lolita will return to the sea in 52 years at the Miami Aquarium

The term for transferring an animal could be from 18 to 24 months and the price could reach 20 million dollars

More than 50 years after the orca Lolita was captured on display at the Miami Seaquarium, she will be repatriated to the waters of the Pacific Northwest, where her mother, a nearly year-old orca, is believed to still live. All are possible from a curious lot struck by a theme park owner, an animal rights group, and an NFL-owning philanthropist.

“I’m still part of Lolita’s journey to freedom. I know Lolita wants to swim in open water,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said.

Lolita, known as Tokita, was about four years old when she was captured in Puget Sound in the summer of 1970. And she became ill after a decade of doing it for thousands of people. Last year, the Miami Seaquarium announced it would no longer hold exhibits with her, under an agreement with federal regulators. Lolita, who is now 57 years old and weighs 2,267 kilograms, now lives in a tank that is 24 meters by 11 meters and 6 meters high.

The orca, believed to be his mother, named Ocean Sun, continues to swim free with other members of his family, known as the L vessel, and is estimated to be over 90 years old. This has always been one of the arguments of the defenders of the release, since Tokitas could still have a long life in the wild.

“It’s a step toward restoring our natural environment that we’ve broken through exploitation and development,” said Howard Garrett, chairman of the board of directors of the Whidbey Islands-based advocacy group Orca Network. Washington. “I think I’m excited and relieved to be at home,” he added.

Agreement between Irsay; Eduardo Albor, who runs the Dolphin Society, which owns Marequarium, and the Florida non-profit Friends of Toki, co-founded by environmentalist Pritam Singh, still faces hurdles of agency approval.

The time to move the animal could be 18 to 24 months, the group said, and the cost could be as high as $20 million. The plan is to swim Lolita to an ocean sanctuary in the waters between Washington and Canada, where she will first swim inside a large net while instructors and vets teach her to fish.

You also need to build up your muscles, as orcas typically swim about 100 miles (60 kilometers) a day, said Raynell Morris, an elder with the Lummi tribe of Washington, who also sits on the board of directors of Friend Toki. “She was four years old when she was kidnapped, so she learned to hunt. She knows her family’s songs,” Morris said. “She remembers, but it will take time.”

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