MIAMI (AP) — A Pacific white-sided dolphin who shared a tank with Lolita the orca at the Miami Seaquarium until Lolita died last month has been moved to SeaWorld San Antonio, where he will live with others of his species, officials said Monday.
Li’i will be joining other Pacific white-sided dolphins in San Antonio, some of whom he lived with previously, the park said in a Facebook post. SeaWorld San Antonio is one of only two places in the United States to care for his species, officials said.
The 40-year-old aquatic mammal had been the only remaining Pacific white-sided dolphin at the Seaquariam, according to a Seaquariam Facebook post. After Lolita's death, animal care experts at the park suggested his relocation to a habitat with other peers of his species.
“Although we will very much miss him, we feel happy to know this is the best for him,” the Seaquariam statement said.
Lolita — also known as Tokitae, or Toki — died Aug. 18 after spending 53 years in captivity. The 57-year-old orca died from an apparent renal condition, officials said.
Animal rights activists had been fighting for years to have Lolita freed from her tank at the Seaquarium. The park's relatively new owner, The Dolphin Company, and the nonprofit Friends of Toki announced a plan in March to possibly move her to a natural sea pen in the Pacific Northwest, with the financial backing of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.
Lolita retired from performing last spring as a condition of the park’s new exhibitor’s license with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She had not been publicly displayed since. In recent months, new upgrades had been installed to better filter the pool and regulate her water temperature.
Federal and state regulators would have had to approve any plan to move Lolita, and that could have taken months or years. The 5,000-pound (2,267-kilogram) orca had been living for years in a tank that measures 80 feet by 35 feet (24 meters by 11 meters) and is 20 feet (6 meters) deep.