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Aquarium in Miami agrees to return BC orca whale to her home waters after 50 years in captivity

Lolita will soon return to her home waters in the Pacific Northwest after living in captivity for more than 50 years.

The Miami Seaquarium announced today that it will return the orca whale to BC waters in the next 18 to 24 months.

<who>The Whale Sanctuary Project

The Dolphin Company, which took over management of the aquarium, has entered a binding agreement with a non-profit organization, Friends of Lolita.

It is estimated that Lolita, also known as Tokitae, is around 57-years-old. She was brought to the park in 1970 after being captured in Puget Sound, Washington.

<who>The Whale Sanctuary Project</who>

According to the Orca Network, Lolita was likely part of L Pod before her capture. She was born around 1967, “just about when the fever to catch orcas for public display was catching on.”

Capturing orca whales proved to have fatal consequences, and eventually resulted in bans on taking the animals from their home waters.

In 2019, Canada passed a law, known as the “free willy” bill, that banned holding both dolphins and whales in captivity.

<who>Canadian Press

Last year, the USA introduced a bill that would see captures, imports, exports and in captivity breeding of four different species of whale phased out.

On whether Lolita would remember her family, the Whale Sanctuary Project says that in 1996, a biologist named Ken Balcomb from the Centre for Whale Research recorded the family greeting each other around the San Juan Islands. It was then played at the Miami Seaquarium, and Lolita “appeared to recognize the calls.”

The oldest Southern Resident orca, Ocean Sun L25, estimated to be over 90 years old, is considered to be Lolita's possible mother based on analysis of the calls Lolita continues to make in her tank.

-With files from The Canadian Press.


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