Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — A female killer whale, known as Lolita, appears to be one step away from returning to her natural habitat in the Pacific Northwest, after decades of performing at a tourist attraction in Miami.
Lolita was pulled from the ocean in 1970.
After a long-running dispute over where Lolita belongs, officials from various parties announced Thursday a “binding agreement” to move Lolita, also known as Tokitai or Toki, to her “native waters.”
And he announced the Miami Aquarium Miami Seaquarium in a statement Thursday: “You will receive lolita The highest level of care, as the team works to make transition possible in 18-24 months.”
for his part, Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts F.Cthe American Football League, Who helps pay for Lolita’s move: “She lived so long to have this opportunity. My only job is (…) to help this whale get free.”
Irsay noted that the cost of transporting Lolita could reach “eight figures”.
The female killer whale’s pelvis measures 80 feet by 35 feet
Thursday’s press conference was also attended by Eduardo Albor, CEO of The Dolphin Company, which operates the Miami Aquarium, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniela Levine Cava, and members of the Friends of Lolita association.
According to the Miami Aquarium, Lolita is 57 years old.
CNN affiliate WPLG reported that the killer whale has not performed since last year but is still in its 80-foot by 35-foot tank.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, orcas can live up to 90 years, weigh up to 11 tons, and grow up to 32 feet.
Advocates said sites for a natural sea pen have been identified, including one where Lolita’s family still swims, WPLG reported.
Lolita’s mother, who is 95, is believed to be still alive.
“(There’s) a chance she’s vocally communicating with her family, without a doubt,” Charles Finick, executive director of the Whale Sanctuary Project, explained to WPLG.
He continued, “Vocally, possible, and perhaps physically over time.”
The female killer whale will be transported across the country and housed in a natural sea pen in Washington state, where she will be watched and taught to hunt, after decades of being fed by professionals.
“Hopefully, this will eventually lead to her getting out of the gate, being freed, and rejoining her family,” Irsay said.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniela Levine Cava said, “We are here because we all care deeply about the health and well-being of this beautiful creature, and I am thrilled to be here for this historic announcement to begin the process of returning Toki to her home waters.”
“Many people have strived for this result for many years. What matters most is Toki’s long-term well-being and together, with the guidance of experts, we will continue to do what’s best for her.”
“You will become a symbol”
The Miami Aquarium was taken over by The Dolphin Company after the fight over Lolita’s freedom began.
Alpur said at the press conference that his commitment to Lolita began when he took his daughter to the aquarium, who was disturbed by the captivity of a female whale.
“This is a step beyond Lolita,” he said. “She will become an icon.”
And in 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that it was adding the lolita to its endangered species list as the southern resident killer whale.
The population of southern killer whales was depleted between 1965 and 1975 due to the takeover of the species by water parks.
Whales were added to the endangered species list around 2005.
Activists petitioned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to include Lolita on the endangered list of southern killer whales.
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