Under a deal with federal regulators, the new owners of the Miami Seaquarium will no longer perform shows with the geriatric orca Lolita.
Lolita and a companion white-sided dolphin, Lii, would no longer be exhibited under MS Leisure's new licensing with the US Department of Agriculture, the company stated as it announced the conclusion of its Seaquarium acquisition.
This killer whale has been confined to a small tank for the past 51 years. Her health is now in jeopardy.
Under a statement, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said, "Today marks a new day for the Miami Seaquarium and all of the creatures in its care."
When the 56-year-old orca was trapped in the Puget Sound near Seattle five decades ago, it was given the name Tokitae or Toki. Animal rights organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals argue that she is the world's oldest orca in captivity and that she should spend her final years at home in a safe environment.
Orcas kill a blue whale, demonstrating that they are the ocean's top predators.
"PETA is urging this to be the first step in releasing Lolita (and Lii) to a coastal sanctuary before she dies in the same cramped tank she's been kept to for over half a century," said Jared Goodman, PETA Foundation Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Animal Law.
Lolita will stay at the Seaquarium for the time being, where officials say she's in good health and eating well despite her senior age.
"As with any animal who has outlived its expected lifespan, we will continue to closely watch and care for her," the Seaquarium said in a statement.
According to a company news release, the Dolphin Company maintains 27 other parks and habitats in Mexico, Argentina, the Caribbean, Italy, and Florida.
Seaquarium aspires to be "an educational opportunity for future generations, educating our community about the significance of aquatic creatures and the preservation of seas," according to company CEO Eduardo Albor.