HomeNewsEnvironmentLolita’s dolphin needs a new home

Lolita’s dolphin needs a new home

In the wake of the death of Lolita, the Miami Seaquarium’s killer whale, the park is reassuring animal activists and the public that it aims to relocate a 40 year-old pool mate: A dolphin named Li’i. who has been swimming in circles, alone, for weeks.

Lolita – who also went by Tokitae – died on Aug. 19 at 57 years old as plans were underway to move her to a sea pen off the coast of Washington state.

Join Our Mailing List

The initial cause of death, announced by Seaqaurium, was kidney failure but the necropsy – performed at the University of Georgia – will give a more complete picture.

“It can take anywhere from four weeks or more for us to get those results back,” said Seaquarium spokeswoman Alexis Login. 

“They just obviously are going to be very thorough so everything that needs to be addressed is addressed and that’s why it’s taking a little bit longer. They’re making sure that everything is very detailed.”

Invest in Local News for Your Town. Your Gift is tax-deductible

Now the focus is on Li’i – a Pacific white-sided dolphin about 40 years old captured off the coast of California and who has nine offspring. Li’i  (pronounced Lee-EE) was supposed to join Lolita in the sea pen in Puget Sound. 

Petitions have sprouted up calling for Li’i’s release from Seaquarium.

The process involves several steps because Li’i is an older dolphin who has never moved between zoos, the park contends. “The public has a misunderstanding that this can be done overnight and there’s a lot more intricacy to it,” Login said.

Lolita, a captured Orca, performs in a show, Jan. 11, 2011, at the Miami Seaquarium. The Dolphin Company, which took ownership of the facility a year ago, announced it would return Lolita to the Pacific Northwest to a protected ocean sanctuary but she died on Aug. 18. (Leonardo Dasilva via Creative Commons)

Seaquarium said it is working with Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and SeaWorld San Antonio to find a suitable place for Li’i to go. His longtime mate Loke and one of his offspring, Elelo, were moved from Seaquarium to Shedd in early August. 

Li’i was supposed to join Lolita in the sea pen in Puget Sound. He was her companion since he was captured in the late 1980s.

Shanna Simpson was Lolita’s trainer from 2003 to 2009 and an organizer of Truth 4 Toki. She said it is against USDA requirements to have a lone cetacean – which is what a Li’i is – in captivity.

But since the whale pool and the adjacent grandstands were structurally condemned in 2021 by Miami-Dade County, it is NOAA Fisheries that oversees the care of the animal, she said.

Simpson and other former trainers interviewed for this story said that the Seaquarium’s owner – The Dolphin Co. and its CEO Eduardo Albor – failed to have a contingency plan for Li’i.

“It’s just a big mess and Li’i suffers the most,” Simpson said. “Albor is so out of touch with anything animal related. Li’i needs to be moved ASAP.”

Albor has pushed back on critics on social media, even trolling them on X, formerly Twitter, with personal insults.

Login said she was uncertain about all the agencies involved in Li’i’s potential move but Seaquarium has said it is working with NOAA on social media.

A drone video posted by animal activist Phil Demers showed Li’i alone in the whale tank. The Dolphin Co. filed suit earlier this year against Demers – who lives in Canada – for posting another drone video of Lolita and Li’i.

Login pushed back on the drone footage of Li’i and critics of the dolphin’s care. “Contrary to what the videos and things you know that they’re floating around, he is, of course, being well cared for no matter what,” Login said. 

JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Most Popular