Lolita, an adored orca that captivated audiences for over five decades at the Miami Seaquarium, passed away on Friday. Fondly known as Tokitae or Toki, the orca’s demise arrives mere months after the Seaquarium, under growing pressure from animal advocates, announced its plan to release Lolita back into the ocean and was actively training her for the process. A statement released on the Miami Seaquarium’s Facebook page noted that Lolita displayed distressing symptoms over the past 48 hours, ultimately succumbing, likely due to a renal issue.

Lolita was captured along with six other killer whales off the Washington state coast in 1970, leading to her lifelong captivity. The Dolphin Company, which owns the marine park, revealed its intention in March to relocate Lolita, with the transition anticipated to unfold over the next 18 to 24 months.

In its statement, the Seaquarium hailed Lolita as a timeless wellspring of inspiration for countless individuals. At the time of her passing, Lolita’s approximate age was around 57 years. The statement conveyed, “Toki served as an inspiration to all who had the privilege of knowing her story and held a special place in the hearts of the Lummi nation, who considered her part of their family. Those fortunate enough to share moments with her will forever carry her beautiful spirit in their memories.”

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The abruptness of Lolita’s passing stunned many, as just four days prior to the tragedy, the Seaquarium shared in a Facebook post that she was in “very stable” health, particularly notable for a 50-year-old. The post highlighted her healthy appetite and the comprehensive preventive medical program implemented by her veterinary team to ensure her optimal well-being for her anticipated return to the ocean.

However, on Friday, her health experienced a rapid downturn, leaving observers puzzled over the sudden shift in her condition after the previously optimistic update. Later the same day, the Seaquarium issued a statement explaining the unexpected decline in Lolita’s health.