ORCAS: Last captive Southern Resident Killer Whale, Tokitae, has died

(WSB photo from 2015 Alki ‘Free Lolita’ rally)

There will be no homecoming for the last Southern Resident Killer Whale in captivity. The 57-year-old orca known as Tokitae (previously Lolita) has died. She was estimated to be four years old when captured 53 years ago off Whidbey Island. The Miami Seaquarium announced her death on social media, saying in part:

Over the last two days, Toki started exhibiting serious signs of discomfort, which her full Miami Seaquarium and Friends of Toki medical team began treating immediately and aggressively. Despite receiving the best possible medical care, she passed away Friday afternoon from what is believed to be a renal condition.

The Seaquarium stopped making her perform two years ago. Recent plans to try moving her back to Puget Sound were still being developed – as we noted back in April – after years of protests and other advocacy, here and elsewhere, demanding she be brought home.

29 Replies to "ORCAS: Last captive Southern Resident Killer Whale, Tokitae, has died"

  • Derek August 18, 2023 (4:16 pm)

    Absolutely gutted by this. She suffered for so long. I will continue to speak ill of Seaworld for this. 

    • WSB August 18, 2023 (5:13 pm)

      Seaquarium is where Tokitae lived and died, not SeaWorld, which is a different company.

      • Tired WS mom August 22, 2023 (3:08 am)

        Regardless of where she was being held, any aquatic center housing marine mammals should be outlawed. It’s cruel 

  • miws August 18, 2023 (5:49 pm)

    Question for Kersti Muul or others in the know, would Tokitae’s family possibly recognize her and grieve her if her body were returned to her Salish Sea home? — Mike

    • anonyme August 18, 2023 (5:58 pm)

      Mike, have you ever seen the footage of recordings of her family being played for Tokitae?  No one can ever know for sure what she was thinking, but she appeared to pay very close attention to the vocalizations.  From what we know about orca communication and their intense and intricate social connections, it’s entirely possible/likely that she did.  Now she will never see them again.  Tragic.

      • Miws August 19, 2023 (8:45 am)

        Anonyme, I don’t recall if I’ve ever seen the footage but believe I’ve at least heard of it. —Mike

    • waikikigirl August 18, 2023 (6:58 pm)

      Mike, I wondered the same as you. 

    • Chemist August 18, 2023 (7:46 pm)

      per wikipedia writeup, it sounds like only one living L pod orca could possibly recognize the body from when captured in 1970 at ~4 years old – 

      As of August 2023, Lolita was the second–oldest southern resident orca after L-25 “Ocean Sun”, who is speculated to be Lolita’s mother.

    • Barbara Spector August 18, 2023 (8:20 pm)

      Orca Network

      Serdpontso24230aathfm9t0t01g17t0a300m0muaft91096u742iia7miif  · With heavy hearts and tears in our eyes Orca Network shares and confirms the news that Tokitae/ Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut/Lolita, passed away today at the Miami Seaquarium around 4 pm Eastern Time, surrounded by her loving care team and veterinarians, who did everything they could to save her after a very short illness. She developed a gastrointestinal issue two days ago for which she was receiving treatment, and then today suddenly developed acute renal failure and could not be saved despite the best efforts of the veterinary team. More information will be available in the coming days. For now, we ask for everyone’s prayers and respect, while our Orca Network pod grieves for this huge loss. One thing that brings us comfort is knowing that yesterday, as Toki began struggling and was on her journey home to the next world, her entire family was off the west side of San Juan Island in what these days is a rare gathering, with all three pods swimming up and down the island, socializing in a Superpod; and the L12s are still there today. This is often a cultural/social ritual to mark a significant event in their community, and we believe they were welcoming her home. Toki is finally home, maybe not the way we wanted, but her family seems to know she is with them once again, in ways we may never comprehend.A vigil in Tokitae’s memory will take place at the Langley Whale Center, 105 Anthes Avenue, Langley, WA, on Saturday, August 19, from 6-8pm.Photo by Rachel Andersen

    • Kersti Elisabeth Muul August 18, 2023 (9:21 pm)

      Her body is very toxic and wouldn’t be put in the water here. They may recognize her, and they would definitely recognize each others vocalizations, as she did the playback years ago

  • Michael Waldo August 18, 2023 (5:53 pm)

    It bugs me that Ted Griffin and others who stole our Orcas and sold them to a aquariums were never held accountable.

  • anonyme August 18, 2023 (5:55 pm)

    I was afraid this would happen.  News that Tokitae would be coming home was one of the few news items that brightened an otherwise abysmal year.  The monsters who imprisoned and tortured this beautiful being for most of her pathetic life have a lot to answer for.  I think the only reason they agreed to let her go was because they knew she had little time left, and hoped to shift the blame for her coming death onto her rescuers.  Seaquarium, and everyone associated with the imprisonment of Tokitae is responsible and deserve to be haunted for the rest of their days for what they have done.   My disgust for my own species is matched only by my sadness for this loss.

  • flimflam August 18, 2023 (6:52 pm)

    I’m so heartbroken and angry at the same time. I can’t believe that was even allowed to happen. The fact that it seemed she’d make it home is even more of a guy punch.

  • M August 18, 2023 (9:49 pm)

    I am so upset. She was so close to coming home. I read that the Superpod were together along the west side of San Juan Islands yesterday. Is it possible they knew she was dying and they all came together to say goodbye? This is so heart wrenching.

  • Fellow Orca Lover August 18, 2023 (10:06 pm)

    I was so hopeful that she would be able to come home and return to the Salish Sea where she belongs… So profoundly sad. :'(

  • Michelle August 18, 2023 (10:10 pm)

    This is very sad news indeed. Too bad she never got to see her family again 😭 

  • Angelina August 18, 2023 (11:59 pm)

    I am heart-broken and I want justice for Toki.

  • Kt August 19, 2023 (5:32 am)

    So sad…another tragedy like when the Woodland Park zoo wouldn’t send the beloved elephants to sanctuary and instead sent them to their deaths.

  • Andrea August 19, 2023 (7:14 am)

    The glimmer of hope for healing has ended. Howard Garrett
    said she was peacefully surrounded by her caretakers when she passed which is
    of some solace. It is hard to see a way forward in grief. I hope that the
    momentum of retiring Tokitae can be continued with another orca in captivity.  My heart goes out to Li’i, Toki’s dolphin
    companion, the Lummi nation, Ocean Sun who could have seen her daughter again, the the Southern Resident Orcas and everyone who fought for her freedom. To honor her
    life, we must work toward salmon restoration, substantial improvement of boat
    noise and pollution in the Salish Sea, and never take an orca from the sea

  • anonyme August 19, 2023 (11:41 am)

    Hearing about the gathering of the superpod makes news of Toki’s death even more devastating, and raised questions about the range (in every aspect) of orca communication.  I have no doubt that the pod still held her memory, but the possibility that they sensed her passing over such distances is simply amazing.  Had they maintained some kind of communication over the decades and across the miles?  There is so much to be learned about the sentience of other beings on this planet, while we obsess only about our own superiority – which is doubtful, except in regard to the human capability for cruelty.

    • flimflam August 19, 2023 (2:08 pm)

      Well said. Animal/mammal communication is real, for sure – I wonder how much we can really learn about it?

  • anonyme August 19, 2023 (5:45 pm)

    Thank you, flimflam.  I was recently attacked on another thread for using the word “speciesism” but I think this is another example.  I believe that interspecies relationships are the next frontier in acceptance.  I’m not talking about sexual relationships, but emotional ones, maybe even intellectual ones.   Anyone who has ever lived with a dog or another non-human
    species would probably attest to having experienced a relationship that went far beyond owner/pet, or ‘obedience’.  We really have no realistic idea how or what other creatures think or feel, as we filter everything through our own narcissistic/speciesistic (I just made up that word) lens.  Imagine if we could learn the language of another species?  I’m also fascinated by the idea that these beings might possibly be communicating without speech, though they are not only fully capable of speech but possess large and complex brains that human brains are not equipped to understand.  It’s as if a brilliant alien being had been captured on Earth, and we put it in a cage and poked at it and made it do tricks until we finally killed it.   That was Toki.  And Tilikum, and Corky, and all the other victims.

    • flauntyleroy August 19, 2023 (9:37 pm)


    • Scarlett August 20, 2023 (2:56 pm)

      No doubt we have a lot of understand on animal communication, but isn’t ascribing human characteristics to animal behavior a bit of a anthropomorphic conceit in it’s own right?  It seems the more we try to disengage ourselves from our own bi-pedal centrism we only succeed in re-ensaring ourselves, as in the notion that whales are communicating over impossibly large distances through some means unknown to us mortals.   On the other hand, there are many out there with advanced degrees who think we all live in a simulation. 

  • flauntyleroy August 19, 2023 (9:26 pm)

    I knew her personally, I miss her

  • So sad August 21, 2023 (11:17 am)

    The garbage humans at Miami Seaquarium will go to their graves believing what they were doing was not hindering her life.  To hold anything captive is abusive.  And to the disgusting “man” that captured her and the others, I hope he is tortured by guilt every day.   Who is standing up for the animals at these zoos and aquariums?

Sorry, comment time is over.