Tokitea, An Orca Whale in Captivity has Retired after 52 years at Seaquarium!

Ava Bedker, Reporter

In 1970 over 80 whales were captured in Penn cove just north of Seattle Washington. They captured using explosives, planes, nets and sticks. The men separated the calves from their mothers which sent them into a panic. The six babies captured were airlifted and sold to marine parks, 5 Orcas were killed in the nets and the majority didn’t make it past the first year in captivity.  

One of the few survivors from this sad day, has retired from entertaining in the smallest orca tank in North America, and is on her way to rehabilitation! Tokitea spent 52 years at Miami Seaquarium where she lived and performed. Now that Tokitea is retired the goal is to get her rehabilitated and released but there are some ethical challenges. Tokitea has lost the ability to communicate with other whales while in captivity. A record of her family whales was played to her, and she seemed to recognize it, but she was hesitant to try and communicate back. Though they are training her to hunt and survive on her own it has been a challenge for Tokitea’s owners to do with her to have a peaceful retirement. She has recently been sold to a Pritam Singh, who started the friends of Lolita foundation, to help with Tokitea’s release.  Because she spent so many years in Miami with water that was under constant sun a move to the pacific with aggressive and cold waters might be more stressing to Tokitea unless rehabilitated correctly.

“We owe all these captive animals an opportunity to live in an environment as close to their natural environment as we can possibly provide,” says Charles Vinick, of the Whale Sanctuary Project 

Other whales that were captured around the same time as her have been able to be rehabilitated and released such as Keiko, who played willy in the movie ‘free willy”, but he was 22 years old and in much better shape than Tokitea. For the time being Tokitea now rests in her retirement in a facility named Sea sanctuary in Florida.