21st August 2023

Lolita, also known as Tokitae or Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut was an orca taken violently from her family in the wild when she was only around four years old. Since her abduction she has spent her entire existence of more than half a century in a tank, forced to perform tricks for crowds until she was ‘retired’ just last year. Many years of campaigning by groups local to the aquarium and around the world finally brought about a decision this year to release her to a sanctuary pen near her home waters. However, tragically, she died of apparent renal failure on the 18th of August after a lifetime of exploitation and abuse.

No animal should be subjected to captivity for human entertainment, and certainly not for decades. No animal should have their entire world taken away to make money for a shameful industry. No animal should have to die in a tank, miles from home, in an alien and restrictive environment, having lost the vast majority of their life to unforgivable abuse. 

As tragic as Lolita’s story is, her life and legacy may offer hope for the future. Her incarceration was cruel and selfish, and by the end of her life the public, and even her abusers, agreed that she did not belong in a tiny tank in Florida, but back in her home waters of the Pacific Northwest. She died as efforts were underway to send her to an appropriate sanctuary, but her story proves that society now knows better - we should no longer be imprisoning animals in aquariums and zoos. We recently focussed on Lolita’s story in a blog post to mark both World Orca Day and World Chimpanzee Day, that asked why it is that we’ve largely recognised that orcas have the same right to freedom as humans, but we haven’t come to the same realisation with other species? Now, as we mark her passing, it is time to ask that question louder than ever and demand change. 

Shame on those who took Lolita from the wild, on those who kept her captive and forced her to perform, and on all those who continue to do those same things to animals across the globe today. Support us in our ongoing mission to protect animals from exploitation. Until all are free.