An unlikely coalition of theme park owners, animal rights groups, NFL owners and philanthropists will return Lolita, a killer whale who has lived in captivity at the Miami Aquarium for more than 50 years, to her home waters on Thursday. We announced that we have a plan. Pacific Northwest.
Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, said at a press conference announcing the agreement, “I’m thrilled to be a part of Lolita’s journey to freedom.” I know there are.”
The timeframe for moving a 5,000-pound (2,267-kilogram) killer whale at age 57 could take six to nine months, or longer, Irsay said. He added that it became part of the mission because “the story of Lolita is familiar and relatable.”
Irsay, in partnership with Friends of Lolita, a nonprofit co-founded by Eduardo Albor, who heads The Dolphin Company, which owns Seaquarium, and environmentalist Pritam Singh, measures 80 feet by 35 feet (24 meters). Move Lolita out of the Marine Park tank. 11 meters) and 20 feet (6 meters) deep.
The entire mission will cost between $15 million and $20 million, the group said.
The plan is to transport Lolita by plane to Pacific waters off the coast of Washington state, where she will first swim in a large net and have trainers and veterinarians show her how to catch fish, Irsay said.
Orcas receive 24-hour care while they adjust to their new surroundings.
Lolita’s caretaker at the oceanarium is already preparing for her trip.
The Dolphin Company will take ownership of the park in 2021 and announced last year that it would not be hosting shows with Lolita, in agreement with federal regulators. The company operates 27 parks and habitats in Mexico, Argentina, the Caribbean and Italy.
Lolita was captured at Pen Cove off the coast of Washington in 1970 when she was four years old. She was originally called Tokitae, or Toki.
In the 1960s and 1970s, dozens of Pacific Northwest whales were captured for display in marine theme parks. The whaling industry claimed that the oceans were teeming with killer whales, some of which could be harvested sustainably.
Animal rights activists, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have long fought for Lolita to spend her final years home in a controlled environment.
Activists often hold protests along the road that runs by the oceanarium, which they call “abuse park.” PETA says they don’t want Lolita to suffer the same fate as her partner Hugo, who died of a brain aneurysm in 1980 after repeatedly banging her head against the tank wall.
Albor said Thursday that he and his daughter visited as tourists because his company was in the process of acquiring the aquarium. said.
His daughter tells him that “his place is too small for Lolita” and makes him promise to help Shachi if his company buys the park.
“It moved me,” Alvar said.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniela Levine Cava called the agreement historic, saying, “So many people have hoped and prayed for this outcome for years.” .
Irsay said there are many hurdles ahead, including securing government permits and working out the details of the move, but the deal, announced Thursday, is Lolita’s first step toward freedom.
“Putting animal health first and foremost is our commitment at The Dolphin Company,” Alvar said. “Finding a better future for Lolita is one of his motivations for buying the Miami Aquarium.”
Seaquarium opened in 1955 on Virginia Quay, east of downtown Miami. Home to a variety of creatures including dolphins, sea lions, manatees, reef fish and sharks, it was the filming location for 88 episodes of “Flipper” television his series and movies in the 1960s.