The Tragic Life of Lolita: a 49-Year-Old Orca Kept in America’s Tiniest Tank

Lolita, a 49-year-old orca who lives at the Miami Seaquarium, was only four-years-old when she was captured back on August, 8 1970, from the Southern Resident orca population. Along with her siblings and cousins, she was sold to the oceanarium for $6,000.

Due to their imprisonment, the clan never recovered and each of the three pods are currently endangered. As of July 1, 2015, the population totaled 81.

If you think the orcas housed at SeaWorld have it bad, you have no idea the amount of suffering Lolita (Tokitae) has endured for the 45 years she’s been at Miami Seaquarium. This orca is not only the oldest orca in captivity and the last living member of the largest capture in history, she’s also kept in the tiniest tank in America.

According to animal welfare advocates, in order to maintain psychological health and well-being orcas need to incorporate long-distance swimming into their daily lives. In the wild, orcas can swim up to 100 miles per day. Lolita’s tank is only 35 feet wide and 20 feet deep. She pretty much lives in a bathtub when compared to the vastness of the open ocean.

If you really want to put the size of her tank into perspective, check it out compared to SeaWorld Orlando’s incredibly tiny holding tanks.

seaworld vs miami

Although orcas are known to be incredibly social animals who develop emotional connections with their pod (ranging from two to 15 individuals), Lolita has not seen or interacted with another orca since her mate Hugo passed away in 1980. She is now forced to live a life of solitude. Without family, without freedom.

Orcas living in the wild can live to be over 100-years-old. In captivity, the average life span is around 13.

At the moment, she is living in her ridiculously tiny tank with two dolphins, and has no escape from the scorching Florida heat.

Fortunately, there is a movement taking place to help free her.

Earlier this month, on the 45th anniversary of her capture, the mayor of Miami Beach spoke in support of her release.

“Miami should be known as the beautiful, modern city that it is — not as the home of the smallest orca tank in North America,” Mayor Philip Levine said in a statement. “This endangered animal must be released as soon as possible from the appalling conditions at the Seaquarium and moved to a sanctuary in her home waters.”