VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. — Lolita has performed her last show.
The Miami Seaquarium’s 7,000-pound killer whale, who has been in declining health, will no longer perform as a star attraction at the marine park in South Florida, the Miami Herald reported.
The 56-year-old orca has not been doing twice-a-day shows for months, since the 20-foot deep tank in the stadium where she is housed was closed for repairs by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the newspaper reported.
Lolita, also known as Tokitae or Toki, has been at the Miami Seaquarium since she sold to the park as a 4-year-old killer whale in 1970, WPLG-TV reported.
MS Leisure, a Mexico-based theme-park operator that will take over the Seaquarium, notified the USDA it will not exhibit Lolita and her Pacific white-sided dolphin companion in the Whale Stadium, the Herald reported.
“If, in the future, you intend to exhibit either of these animals (including posting any image of these animals on social media with the expectation of economic benefit), or resume using this pool for exhibition purposes, you will need to apply for a new license,” USDA Deputy Administrator Elizabeth Goldentyer wrote the company, according to the newspaper.
Lolita has been the focus of a decades-long campaign by animals rights activists who want to return the orca to its natural habitat, the Herald reported.
A recent USDA inspection report from June revealed that Lolita’s longtime attending veterinarian of 23 years was concerned when the newly hired curator made the orca perform fast swims and big jumps despite her age and a jaw injury, WPLG reported. The report also noted that Lolita’s daily intake of food was reduced by 30 pounds per day by the curator, the television station reported.
“It’s a big win for Toki that she doesn’t have to perform anymore,” Miami-Dade County Commissioner Raquel Regalado told the Herald. “Finally, this USDA license allows the county to close a chapter with the old operator, which has done a shoddy job and has not been transparent, and move forward with a new operator that has a different bent on how to run a marine park and treat animals.”
The current owner of the Seaquarium, Festival Fun Parks, pays Miami-Dade County $2.5 million to rent county land, the newspaper reported.
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