Lolita, the iconic killer whale who spent five decades at Miami Seaquarium, died from a progression of “multiple chronic conditions” brought on by age, according to a necropsy report released on Tuesday by the Virginia Key park.
Lolita – also known as Tokitae – died on Aug. 18 as efforts were underway to move her to sea pen in her native waters off the coast of Washington state. The non-profit Friends of Toki – backed by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and real estate developer Pritam Singh – wanted to return her home to a sea pen in Puget Sound.
The effort was criticized by some of Lolita’s former trainers as foolhardy. They started the group Truth 4 Toki to lobby for the 7,000-pound whale to be moved to a bigger tank in SeaWorld Orlando.
The necropsy report lists numerous ailments: pneumonia, kidney degeneration, heart disease and even tongue ulcers.
“Lolita was one of the longest-lived orcas under human care to date, exceeding life expectancy in the wild by several years,” according to the Seaquarium news release. “We miss her deeply and honor her memory every day.”
Shanna Simpson, Lolita’s trainer from 2003 to 2009, said Seaquarium and Friends of Toki knew the animal was too sick to move. She said that blood draws are done daily on geriatric animals at the park and the decrease in kidney function would have been readily apparent.
“They knew she was dying. They knew her days were numbered,” Simpson said. “It’s what we’ve been saying since day one: this was all a PR stunt.”
The necropsy was performed the day after her death at the University of Georgia.
Lolita retired from performing last spring as a condition of the park’s new exhibitor license with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Friends of Toki, right before her death, said the whale was in good condition after new chillers and filters had been installed in her 80-by-35 foot tank.