The orca Lolita, star of the Miami Seaquarium, could soon return to its natural habitat

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Eduardo Albor, executive director of the company that owns the aquarium, said he was “100% committed” to returning it to the North Pacific, where it was captured. Animal welfare advocates have been protesting the living conditions of this 56-year-old creature for years

Recently retired, Lolita was the star of the Miami Seaquarium for more than 50 years. (Miami Seaquarium)

The orca Lolita, for more than 50 years the star of the Miami Seaquarium, may soon be released. For the first time, aquarium managers have stated that they are willing to assist in efforts to return her to her natural habitat. Also known as Tokitae or Toki,the 56-year-old whale has lived in captivity since 1970.

Eduardo Albor, CEO of the Dolphin Company, which owns the site, He told a dam conference that his management is “100% committed” to efforts to transport Lolita to her native waters near Puget Sound in the northern Pacific Ocean, where she was rounded up and captured.< /p>

This past March Lolita was removed from her duties, in compliance with the new licensing agreement between the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Dolphin Company, which prohibited her from being performed and displayed to the public. public.

Aquariums may only display whales or porpoises for entertainment if they obtain (or renew) a special exhibitor license with USDA. For this to happen, the living conditions of these marine mammals must meet the minimum standards established in theAnimal Welfare Law.

The orca Lolita, star of the Miami Seaquarium, could soon return to its natural habitat

According to PETA, Lolita lives in the world's smallest orca pond.

In the case of an orca, the minimum horizontal dimension of its pond should be enough for it to swim twice its body length in the same direction.

In 2017, an inspector The USDA seemed to admit that Lolita's pond didn't meet minimum standards, but back then the agency didn't shut down the show. This time, instead of renewing the aquarium's license as it was, as they used to do, the USDA's decision resulted in the removal of the whale from the public arena.

Animal rights groups have long advocated for the release of Tokitae. For that reason, the recent announcement was received with enthusiasm.

Jared Goodman, attorney and vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ( PETA), told the weekly New Times: “We are pleased to hear that the Dolphin Company remains committed to relocating Lolita after decades of being trapped in the world's smallest orca tank.”

Orca Lolita, star of the Miami Seaquarium, may soon return to the wild

For years, many people, including children, and animal protection groups have advocated for Lolita's return home. (EFE/Cristóbal Herrer-Ulaskevich)

But to move the orca to its natural habitat there are still several obstacles to overcome. The first thing would be to get approval from federal agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the USDA.

In addition, Tokitae has been dealing with with a respiratory disease since his retirement. He was even close to death at one point. To treat it, it is necessary to bring a special antibiotic from Japan, thanks to which it has stabilized. However, although it has improved, it still has its bad days.

For now, consideration is being given to moving her from her 24 meter long, 11 meter wide pond to a more spacious enclosure.

“We are just taking it day by day and learning from the Dolphins Company and the veterinarians,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “We have a team of professionals.”

The orca Lolita, star of the Miami Seaquarium, could soon return to its natural habitat

At the moment, Lolita is recovering from a respiratory illness that brought her to the brink of death. death.

For the whale's recovery, the Friends of Toki group have been working with the aquarium to improve the water quality of their pond, and installing new filters and chillers that they can drop the temperature to below 13ºC, the temperature you will have to get used to for the journey home.

“The first thing is your health and we take care of it as much as we can here and then we want to wait as long as possible,” said Pritam Singh, who runs Friends of Toki. “Of course, the best thing to do would be to bring it back to where it came from.”

Singh also said his group has had initial discussions with NOAA and USDA.

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