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Lolita
Miami Oceanarium.jpg
Lolita performing at Miami Seaquarium
Species Killer whale (Orcinus orca)
Breed Southern resident
Sex Female
Born c. 1966
Years active 1970-present
Known for Second oldest captive killer whale
Weight 7,000 pounds (3,200 kg)
Named after Lolita

Lolita (born c. 1966), also known as Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut and Tokitae is a captive killer whale who has lived at the Miami Seaquarium since September 24, 1970. She was captured from the wild on August 8, 1970 in Penn Cove, Puget Sound, Washington when she was approximately four years old and as of 2021 is the second oldest killer whale in captivity behind Corky at SeaWorld San Diego. Her captivity has garnered controversy, specifically due to the dimensions of her enclosure which is the smallest in North America and illegal per the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) killer whale tank size regulations.

In 2017, a USDA audit acknowledged for the first time that Lolita's tank does not meet the legal size requirements per federal law.

Life

Lolita was one of seven young killer whales sold to oceanariums and marine mammal parks around the world from a capture of over eighty whales conducted by Ted Griffin and Don Goldsberry, partners in an operation known as Namu, Inc. She is a member of the "L Pod" of Southern resident killer whales, a group that lost a third of its members to these captures. As of 2020, there are seventy-two identified Southern resident killer whales in the wild, and Lolita is the only remaining captive member who is still alive. The oldest known living Southern resident killer whale as of 2020, "L25 Ocean Sun", is speculated to be Lolita's mother and estimated to be between eighty and ninety years old.

She was purchased by Miami Seaquarium veterinarian Dr. Jesse White for about $20,000. Upon arrival to the Seaquarium, Lolita joined another Southern resident killer whale named Hugo who was also captured from Puget Sound and had lived in the park two years before her arrival. She was originally called Tokitae but was renamed Lolita after the heroine in Vladimir Nabokov's novel.

She and Hugo lived together for ten years in what was then known as the "Whale Bowl", a tank 80-by-35-foot (24 by 11 m) by 20 feet (6 m) deep. The pair mated many times (once to the point of suspending shows) but they never produced any offspring. Hugo died on March 4, 1980, after a brain aneurysm occurred from the whale repeatedly ramming his head into the side of the tank. Lolita then shared the tank with a Short-beaked common dolphin and a Pilot whale during the 1980s and 1990s, and today lives and performs with a pair of Pacific white-sided dolphins. As of 2021, she is one of three killer whales who are being held without a companion of their own kind, the others being Kshamenk at Mundo Marino in Argentina and Kiska at Marineland of Canada.

Legal cases

In November 2011 Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), PETA, and three individuals filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to end the exclusion of Lolita from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of the Pacific Northwest's Southern resident killer whale. NMFS reviewed ALDF’s joint petition, along with the thousands of comments submitted by the public and found the petition merited. In February 2015, the NOAA announced it would issue a rule to include Lolita in the endangered species list. Previous to this, although the killer whale population that she was taken from is listed as endangered, as a captive animal, Lolita was exempted from this classification. This change does not impact on her captivity at Miami Seaquarium.

On March 18, 2014 a judge dismissed ALDF's case challenging Miami Seaquarium's Animal Welfare Act license to display captive killer whales.

In June 2014 ALDF filed a notice of appeal of the District Court decision that found the USDA had not violated the law when it renewed Miami Seaquarium's AWA exhibitor license.

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