MIAMI - A team of independent veterinarians has been invited to the Miami Seaquarium to examine Tokitae the orca, and many are hoping she is in good health to one day return to Puget Sound.
Tokitae, who was renamed "Lolita", has been living in her tank at the Seaquarium for 52 years. She was captured from Puget Sound and sold to the Seaquarium for $20,000. Lolita has been a main attraction at the Seaquarium for decades, but is no longer performing shows.
In order for her to return home, the United States Department of Agriculture must issue a clean bill of health. The new owners of the Miami Seaquarium will now allow a health exam to be conducted, and plan on sending the diagnosis to the mayor's office and releasing that information to the public.
"My priority has always been to ensure that Lolita, also known as Tokitae, is in good health and that she receives the care she needs," said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. "I am proud to announce that, under the guidance of the county, The Dolphin Company has agreed to an independent exam by a third-party veterinarian. We look forward to receiving their results in the near future."
This is happy news for many Washingtonians, including Vice President of Sacred Lands Conservancy and Lummi tribal member, Raynell Morris.
"If we get her the best healthcare possible, or we reaffirm that she’s getting the best healthcare, she’ll become her best self," said Morris.
Members of the Lummi Nation have been trying to bring Tokitae back home for years, but each attempt has been unsuccessful.
"We don't recognize her name as Lolita. That's a showgirl name placed upon her by her slave members," said Sit Ki Kadem (Doug James), a part of Lummi Nation.
"No one should have to spend 50 years in captivity," says Tah-Mas (Ellie Kinley).
"Let's bring her home, let's give her peace of mind back, that she can hear the song of her pod again, and let her taste the water that she long remembers from long ago as the little one," said Sit Ki Kadem (Doug James).
In 2020, two tribe members announced a new partnership with a nonprofit environmental law organization called, Earth Law Center.
In 2018, members of Lummi Nation began a 9,000-mile, 25-day journey to deliver a 16-foot tall killer whale totem pole to the Miami Seaquarium in an attempt to bring Tokitae back home.
An official date for the veterinarians to visit the orca has not yet been scheduled.
This is a developing story.