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Marine Mammal Experts: Keep Orca Safe in Miami

Animal activist groups have made efforts to release animals from zoos and aquariums for years. That might work in a Hollywood movie. In reality, the move may be deadly for the animals involved.

Enter Lolita the killer whale, who has lived at the Miami Seaquarium for more than 50 years. Animal activists have long demanded her “liberation” because they oppose keeping animals in zoos and aquariums.

On March 30th, the owners of Miami Seaquarium announced at a news conference that they have begun “the process of returning Toki [Lolita] to her home waters. ” Lolita will be moved to a “sea pen” in the Pacific Northwest after proper preparation, which may take over a year. After all, moving a whale is difficult and the animal needs to be trained. The agreement was in part made possible due to a sizable donation from Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts.

However, a group called Truth4Toki is raising an alarm about the news.

The group is composed of Lolita’s current and former trainers, veterinarians and caretakers and they have started a petition pleading for Lolita to be sent to SeaWorld Orlando where she can live the rest of her days.

In the petition, the group said “Let’s not make Lolita suffer the same fate as Keiko. A move of any kind is likely to kill her. She is 58 years old and battles chronic illness and is not a candidate for release.” The group also directly addressed Jim Irsay – “Jim Irsay—if you are so moved by Lolita as you claim you are, listen to us. Pay the money to get her to SeaWorld Orlando where the experts can continue to provide the standard of care she deserves. You admitted Keiko’s release was a failure—don’t make the same mistake with Toki.”

Keiko the orca was featured in the 1993 movie Free Willy. Animal activists sought to return Keiko to his native waters in the North Atlantic in the late 90s. The activists succeeded after raising millions of dollars, and Keiko was released into the ocean. Sadly, Keiko didn’t last long in his new environment and perished.

As we recently wrote, “Nature is not Disney. Transplanting an animal from a zoo or aquarium into the wild is like abandoning your dog in Yellowstone Park. It’s not equipped to survive.”

While the intentions of animal activists to release ocean animals back into the wild may be good, the outcomes can be detrimental to the animals themselves. Ultimately, we should consider what is in the animal’s best interest.