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Lolita/Tokitae/Sk'aliCh’ehl-tenaut

As we approach the end of Orca Action Month and our Lasting Legacies series, we honor and celebrate a living legend, Lolita/Tokitae/Sk'aliCh’ehl-tenaut.

Toki, as she is often affectionately called, was taken from her family during the horrific Penn Cove orca capture of 1970 that took the lives of at least 5 Southern Resident orcas and the freedom of 7 more. For 53 years, Toki has lived at the Miami Seaquarium, performing daily in the oldest, smallest orca tank in the United States. She is the sole survivor of the Southern Resident orcas who were captured in the 1960s and 1970s. She has been without another orca companion since her tank-mate Hugo died in 1980. And somehow through it all she has remained gentle, courageous and resilient.

Check out the story below to read a narration about Lolita/Tokitae/Sk'aliCh’ehl-tenaut, written by Orca Network’s Education and Advocacy Coordinator, Cindy Hansen.

Collage of Tokitae. Photos: Wallie Funk, Jill Hein, Jo Phillips.


Lolita/Tokitae/Sk'aliCh’ehl-tenaut

As we approach the end of Orca Action Month and our Lasting Legacies series, we honor and celebrate a living legend, Lolita/Tokitae/Sk'ali’Chehl-tenaut.


Toki, as she is often affectionately called, was taken from her family during the horrific Penn Cove orca capture of 1970 that took the lives of at least 5 Southern Resident orcas and the freedom of 7 more. For 53 years, Toki has lived at the Miami Seaquarium, performing daily in the oldest, smallest orca tank in the United States. She is the sole survivor of the Southern Resident orcas who were captured in the 1960s and 1970s. She has been without another orca companion since her tank-mate Hugo died in 1980. And somehow through it all she has remained gentle, courageous and resilient.


Tokitae’s retirement was first proposed in 1995 by whale biologist Ken Balcomb. For decades activists, non-profit organizations, and the Lummi Nation have fought to bring Toki home to the Salish Sea, never giving up on her despite the Seaquarium’s unwillingness to release their star attraction. But in 2022 the Miami Seaquarium was purchased by The Dolphin Company, and things began to change. On March 30th, 2023, an historic announcement was made. An agreement had been reached between the Seaquarium’s owner Eduardo Albor, the non-profit Friends of Toki, and financial backer Jim Irsay, with a shared commitment to retire Tokitae to a seapen back in her home waters. The next steps involve securing the proper federal permits and constructing a seapen, a process that could take up to a few years but one we hope will happen much more quickly. Meanwhile Toki waits at the Miami Seaquarium, no longer on public display, while a team of trainers and veterinarians monitor her health and enrichment and prepare for the day when she is finally able to come home.

Over the years, Tokitae’s story has touched people of all ages from around the world. She has been the subject of books, documentary films, poetry, blog posts, music and art, including the beautiful graphics we have used throughout Orca Month this year. Follow the links below for a few examples of her extraordinary Lasting Legacy:




Photo Credits:

First photo: Collage of Tokitae. Photos: Wallie Funk, Jill Hein, Jo Phillips.

Second photo: Drawing by Monika Wieland Shields.

Third photo: Tokitae looking at her family in Miami Seaquarium. Photo: Susan Berta.

Fourth photo: Tokitae graphic by Sara Hysong-Shimazu.

Fifth: Tokitae with calf graphic by Sara Hysong-Shimazu.

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