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Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut (pronounced SKAH-lee-CHUKH-tah-NOT), more widely known as Toki (toh-KEE), Tokitae (toh-KEE-tay or toe-kah-TY), or Lolita (low-LEE-tuh), was an approximately 57-year-old female Southern Resident killer whale who lived at the Miami Seaquarium in Miami, Florida. She and Corky II were the oldest living orcas in captivity. She was widely believed to be the daughter of L25 "Ocean Sun". Tokitae passed away at the Miami Seaquarium on August 18th, 2023, at approximately 4PM local time from suspected renal failure. She was the last living Southern Resident killer whale in captivity.

Early Life and Capture[]

Toki was captured on August 8th, 1970 in the infamous 1970 Penn Cove capture. She was captured along with Clovis, Jumbo, Lil' Nooka, Winston, Ramu IV, and Chappy. All seven orcas were held at the Seattle Aquarium after capture. Dr. Jesse White, a marine mammal veterinarian, went to the aquarium to pick out a whale for the Miami Seaquarium, a marine mammal park in Miami, Florida. He selected Toki, and named her "Tokitae" after a Coast Salish greeting meaning "bright day, pretty colors". Dr. White is said to have seen something special in the whale. [1]

Life at the Miami Seaquarium[]

Toki was moved to the Miami Seaquarium on September 24th, 1970. There, her name was changed to Lolita. She was housed in the Seaquarium's brand new orca tank, kept separately from their other killer whale, a Southern Resident male named Hugo who had been captured two years earlier, since there was concern the two would fight. After hearing them call out to each other, it was decided to put them together. Fortunately, the two got along. [1]

Toki and Hugo lived and performed together for ten years. Occasionally, the pair would get aggressive towards trainers. Trainer Manny Valesco recalled both whales becoming aggressive and lunging at trainers on the platform. [2] Toki, however, was generally less aggressive than Hugo and trainers preferred working with her as a result. [3] Over the years, Toki likely fell pregnant several times, but she never delivered a live calf. [4]

On March 4th, 1980, Hugo passed away due to a brain aneurysm. Toki was back to performing the next day, and though she would occasionally look for her companion, she reportedly "got over the loss". [4] Over the years she was kept with several different cetaceans for company, including a pilot whale, a Risso's dolphin, a short-beaked common dolphin and several different Pacific white-sided dolphins. [5] At the time of her death, Tokitae lived with one Pacific white-sided dolphin, Li'i. There were plans to move two other dolphins, Loke and her young calf Elelo, in with Toki as well, but these plans were postponed due to a critical USDA inspection report. [6] A fourth dolphin, Catalina, lived with Toki for many years, but died in December of 2021. It is suspected that her death was caused by an aggressive incident with Toki.

In 2019, Toki was given the name Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut by the Lhaq'temish (Lummi) nation, who consider her to be their relative. That same year, two different Lummi women invoked the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in hopes of bringing Toki back to her home waters.

In September of 2021, a damning 17-page report was released by the USDA that revealed the concerning conditions that Tokitae, along with dozens of other animals at the Miami Seaquarium, were living in. In January of 2021, Miami Seaquarium's Training Curator decreased Toki's base from 160 pounds to 130, despite objections from the attending veterinarian. The training curator also decided, again against the attending vet's advice, that Toki should continue to perform high-energy behaviors such as high-jumps and fast swims during shows. Not only were these behaviors over-exerting her and causing her to become winded, but they also caused her to injure herself. During a behavior, likely a fast swim, she hit her lower jaw against the side of her pool and had an injury for at least a month.

In late February of 2021, Toki and the rest of the cetaceans at the park were fed foul-smelling and partially decomposing capelin, once again against the advice of the attending veterinarian. The bad fish was fed to the cetaceans for 8 days. Several animals, including Toki, became sick or showed abnormal behavior and blood results. Blood work indicated that Toki had developed inflammation.

In April of 2021, Toki developed eye injuries due to an excess level of chlorine in the water. During the inspection in June, the USDA discovered inconsistencies in the levels of free and total chlorine, and that the levels of total chlorine were only tested once a week for almost a year. The USDA also reported that Toki's habitat did not have proper shade, and that guests were sitting their children down and dangling objects such as phones and cameras within reach of Toki. The USDA required the Miami Seaquarium fix many of these issues within a year or less. [6] Following these revelations, the animal rights group PETA demanded that the Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle investigate and charge the Miami Seaquarium with animal cruelty. [7]

Plans for a Sea Pen[]

On March 30th, 2023, the Miami Seaquarium, partnered with Friends of Tokitae, announced that the process to return Tokitae to a sea pen back in her home waters in the Salish Sea had officially begun. The announcement was made during a press conference with the county's officials and discussed the plans of building Tokitae a sea pen near her native range. According to Friends of Tokitae, the plan would have taken 18-24 months to complete and required Tokitae to undergo transport training and acclimatization. More information about Tokitae's move came out day later in which her independent veterinarians state that her move had been greenlit by her veterinary team and that she was healthy enough for transport. Unfortunately, Tokitae passed away five months later.

Death[]

On August 18, 2023, the Miami Seaquarium announced that Tokitae had passed away at approximately 4pm that afternoon from what they believe was acute renal failure. According to Howard Garret of Orca Network, Tokitae had developed a gastrointestinal issue and shown severe discomfort two days prior to her death.[8] Tokitae had been scheduled for a medical procedure on the 18th of August. During the procedure, Tokitae was given medication. Shortly after, she began listing to one side and was unable to move a portion of her tail fluke. Personnel on scene report that blood appeared to be coming out of Tokitae's mouth. Tokitae did not recover from the procedure and passed away shortly after. A necropsy was carried out at the University of Georgia, but the results have not yet been made public.

Appearance[]

Tokitae was a rather large length for a female killer whale. This was potentially due to her resident blood, as Corky II, a northern resident, is also quite large. Her head was described as "ovular," with an average sized melon and a large rostrum; the slope between her rostrum and melon was gentle. Her body shape was rectangular and full in shape. Her front teeth showed minor signs of wear. Toki possessed a short, triangular dorsal fin with no imperfections, though it did lean slightly to her left. Her flukes possessed 2 nicks on each of the lobes, with no obvious freckles. Tokitae's eyepatches were medium-sized and ovular in shape, a typical trait in southern residents, with no notable flecks of black or freckles. Her mouth chips were prominent and square in shape. On the right side of her face, a tiny freckle could be seen on the lip of her lower jaw.

Trivia[]

  • Tokitae's stage name, "Lolita," is Spanish in origin and translates to "suffering" or "sorrow." While it remains in use in Mexican communities, in the English speaking world the name lost popularity in the late 1950s with the publishing of Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel, Lolita, which follows a middle-aged protagonist's relationship with a 12-year-old girl. [9] While Nabokov's work is often considered a commentary on pedophilic relationships, the book's reputation and inherent relationship to the name has lead many to strictly refer to the whale as "Tokitae."
  • In her book, Endangered Orcas, Monika Wieland Shields elaborated on MSQ's decision to change Tokitate's name once she arrived in Florida. Miami Seaquarium reportedly believed that the name "Tokitae" sounded "too native" due to its origins in Chinook jargon. The Seaquarium believed that the Chinook name would be a reminder of the whale's home in the Puget Sound, and promptly changed it.[10][1]

Galleries[]

  • Photos of Tokitae (Lolita)
  • Videos of Tokitae (Lolita)

Transfer History[]

Tokitae’s Transfer History
FROM: TO: ON:
Penn Cove, Washington Penn Cove Sea Pen, Washington Aug. 08, 1970
Penn Cove Sea Pen, Washington Seattle Marine Aquarium, Washington Aug. ??, 1970
Seattle Marine Aquarium, Washington Miami Seaquarium, Florida Sep. 14, 1970
Miami Seaquarium, Florida University of Georgia Aug. 19, 2023

References[]

This page was last updated on: Aug. 20, 2023

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