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Tokitae Off Display at Miami Seaquarium? An Open Letter

An Open Letter to Dolphin Company Regarding Tokitae, Miami SeaQuarium’s Elderly Killer Whale.

By Jenna DeedyPublished about a year ago 6 min read
Tokitae, also known as "Lolita" at Miami SeaQuarium in 2012.

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing regarding the welfare of Miami SeaQuarium’s elderly killer whale Tokitae, also known as “Lolita” in response to reports that she and Lii, her Pacific White-Sided dolphin companion, would no longer be on public display.

Recently, it has been announced that upon your acquisition of Miami SeaQuarium, you guys could no longer have Tokitae, a 56-year-old killer whale, and her dolphin companion Lii be on public display nor share any content that features the two animals at the small habitat they share.

There have been rumors that suggest that Tokitae might move to a different facility since the SeaQuarium is the first facility that you’ve gained that houses a killer whale. Please keep in mind there are extremists who wish to use her for their own “experiment”.

For this reason, I wish to address some concerns about the well-being of Tokitae and why handing her over to animal rights extremists is not an option.

Tokitae’s Routine at Miami SeaQuarium is Simple

I have mentioned this before in an article I wrote about opposing Tokitae’s “release” back in 2019 about how her routine at Miami SeaQuarium is simple: She’s a creature of habit who has had the same routine for over five decades.

Her routine begins around 9:45 AM when trainers conduct the first feeding session of the day. From there, Toki mostly plays with her trainers and dolphin companion. Playtime is very important to Toki by providing her with the stimulation and exercise she needs and helps her strengthen her relationship with her trainers.

As for her training sessions, whether they take place during shows, or during private training sessions, nothing is ever forced on Tokitae at all. This is because all of her training is all based on positive reinforcement, trust, and mutual respect. During sessions, a trainer will ask Toki to perform certain behaviors and she will have a choice between doing the asked behavior or ignoring it. If she performs the behavior, she will be given either a snack, an environmental enrichment device, or a rubdown. If not, she will be ignored for a few seconds. However, she will be given the same amount of food, affection, and enrichment throughout the day, regardless of what behaviors she displays. As for the snacks, she prefers chunks of salmon, not whole salmon.

The SeaQuarium’s Former Vet was Fired After the Release of the June 2021 USDA Report.

According to Sarah Newcomer, a former Miami SeaQuarium intern who remains in contact with members of the training department, Magdalena Rodriguez, the veterinarian at the SeaQuarium, was fired for giving an inaccurate report to the USDA. Rodriguez has also been known for not changing the animals’ needs during her time there.

It should be noted that the USDA inspectors only report what they are told and see rather than what they’ve witnessed, but then again, no inspector has witnessed any of the incidents mentioned in the June 2021 report. The inspectors only went along with what Rodriguez reported to them. In the July 2021 report, SeaQuarium was cleared of all critical incidents, and the facility brought in a new veterinarian in her place to make recent changes that are aimed at improving the lives of the resident animals at the park.

These changes are still being made.

Possible Transfer

With rumors of Tokitae now being considered for a transfer to another facility, I recommend you to not transfer her care over to a sea pen operated by animal rights extremists. Instead, the best option for her, as far as transfers go, is to move her to SeaWorld Orlando. Aside from it being closer to Miami SeaQuarium, in terms of killer whale husbandry and care, SeaWorld Orlando has a large habitat that houses five killer whales and offers several pools within the habitat Toki can go to if she chooses not to interact with the other orcas under the park’s care. While integrating her into the Orlando pod might not be easy, she might do better at being a member of the pod if the process was done at a slow pace.

However, the challenge behind this would be the fact that Tokitae has not been with other orcas in over four decades, and she has lived at just one facility for over five decades. This can be very stressful to an elderly animal who's been used to a single routine and habitat for most of her known life so, moving her to Orlando is going to take time and effort to ensure her well-being and she’s unharmed by the move.

It might be possible to send her trainers from SeaQuarium to work with her in Orlando for a year to help make things easy for her.

Don’t Cave Into The Demands of Extremists

Considering the news regarding Tokitae, animal rights extremists have taken to social media, begging people to give them money for a sea pen in order to gain her for themselves. Personally, I have looked at the animated graphic of what this pen would look like if it were to come to fruition. While it’s large, it lacks the filtration system that most pen-based facilities have to keep them clean of environmental toxins that could be harmful to animals who live in such facilities.

Also, there is also very little to no mention of plans to provide Tokitae any companionship of other animals in the pen.

One particular group plans to work with the radical Whale Sanctuary Project on such a concept but this group is planning on building a similar sea pen for beluga whales in an area in Nova Scotia that has been proven to be contaminated by two toxic tailing dumps that were left behind by gold miners. Other concerns regarding that location include possible disruption of critical habitats that are aimed at protecting right whales and local wild birds.

The activists who want Tokitae for themselves have little to no expertise in marine mammal husbandry and care in a modern marine zoological facility.

All I ask is if Tokitae will no longer be on display at the Miami SeaQuarium, please consider moving her to SeaWorld Orlando where she can still receive the same amount of care that she currently receives at your facility. If you wish to build her a new habitat at the park, please look into acquiring new land that would be big enough to build a new habitat for Toki, her dolphin companions, and possibly for other killer whales that could share the habitat with her.

Please don’t cave in to the demands of extremists who don’t know how to care for killer whales and other marine mammals in a marine zoological facility. They could inflict more harm on her than anything.

Yours Truly,

Jenna Costa Deedy

wild animals

About the Creator

Jenna Deedy

Zoo and Aquarium Professional, Educator, Cosplayer, Writer and B.A. in Psychology whose got a lot to share when it comes to animals, zoos, aquariums, conservation, and more.

Instagram: @jennacostadeedy

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