NOAA lists kidney failure as Tokitae's official cause of death

An executive summary of the necropsy performed on Tokitae, a Southern Resident orca that died in captivity in Miami, has been released.

The summary, released on Tuesday, confirms reporting by FOX 13 News over the weekend that NOAA Fisheries had listed her death as kidney disease (renal failure).

Dr. Jenna Wallace, a veterinarian that previously worked with Tokitae, said there are key questions left unanswered by the documents released this week including the medications that were used, her diet, and what was taking place during Tokitae's final days.

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While a necropsy was performed in late August, the findings have not been made public. A one-page summary was released by the Miami Seaquarium on its website, while comments made by her current veterinary team was published on the ‘Friends of Toki’ website, the nonprofit tasked with making arrangements to bring Tokitae home.

"Our optimism during Toki's long period of therapy was based on how ill she was when we started and her positive response to treatment during the following months of therapy," wrote the three members of her recent veterinary team.

In the days leading up to Tokitae's death, videos of her swimming speed laps were released – at the time, described as a sign that her health was improving.

Dr. Wallace told FOX 13 that the videos were a concern, she'd seen similar behaviors from Tokitae when she was agitated.

"To me, it was actually very concerning," said Wallace, regarding the videos of Tokitae's laps. "It didn't look like increased activity, it looked like agitation. I'm very concerned that her behavior was misinterpreted because those people that were there did not know this animal for two decades like her previous staff did." 

RELATED: Orca Tokitae's remains return home to Washington, Lummi Nation to scatter ashes in Salish Sea

FOX 13 has reached out to the Miami Seaquarium to see if there are any plans to release the full necropsy report. Staff have not yet responded.

Lummi Nation leaders planned to meet and discuss the latest news, according to a spokesperson. However, they have not publicly commented on the findings.

Tokitae, who was considered a family member by tribal elders, was returned to Lummi Nation for her ashes to be scattered in a private ceremony. They had objected to the decision of the Miami Seaquarium to perform the necropsy in the first place.

While NOAA does oversee necropsies of deceased cetaceans, in this case – as noted on the entity's website – a necropsy was not required, and the report did not have to be sent to them.

Earlier this month, NOAA Fisheries updated their documents that track all captive whales in the U.S. to note that Tokitae's cause of death was kidney disease.