More than 50 years after being captured from her home in the Pacific Northwest, Lolita the orca (also known as Toki) is finally slated to be released.
According to AP News, Lolita was pulled from her home and family for the sake of human entertainment when she was just four years old.
The orca spent decades being treated as a prop for the Miami Seaquarium, but her future is looking bright. You see, Lolita’s freedom is coming thanks to an unlikely collaboration between the Miami Seaquarium, the Florida nonprofit Friends of Toki, and the Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.
AP News reported that the Miami Seaquarium stopped showing Lolita because of a licensing issue with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Considering she was costing them money to house and not making them money, it makes sense they might be more agreeable to free her now.
Irsay hinted that Lolita’s future may be changing in a March 28 tweet that read: “I’ll be at a big press conference in Miami on Thursday at 11:30am for a HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT about the future of LOLITA the orca.”
I’ll be at a big press conference in Miami on Thursday at 11:30am for a HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT about the future of LOLITA the orca. 👍👍
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) March 28, 2023
Just two days later, Irsay celebrated a dinner with “key players” in Lolita’s upcoming journey to freedom.
He shared that her release would be documented by filmmaker Ryan White.
Dinner before today’s Lolita press conference in Miami Beach! Key players in the massive plan to finally FREE this 8000 lb killer whale, Lolita!!❤️🙏🏼…Stay tuned as this dream unfolds in real time👏 Filmmaker Ryan White to document every incredible step towards FREEDOM✌️🥳 pic.twitter.com/RKOCuhV5lZ
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) March 30, 2023
While the needle is moving in the direction for freeing Lolita, a Friends of Toki press release explains that the operation to free her could take 18-24 months and cost millions and relies on authorization from various government bodies.
They hope to set her free in the waters between Washington and Canada where she was originally captured.
According to the Seattle Times, Lolita’s mom, L25, is still alive and estimated to be about 93 years. Orcas generally live 50-90 years, so experts are hopeful that Lolita could have a few decades left to enjoy her freedom.