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RIP Toki

This is the final image of Toki, also known as Lolita, a magnificent orca who passed away on Friday after 53 years in captivity at Miami Seaquarium.

Toki was violently captured as a youngster in 1970 and spent over half a decade entertaining millions of visitors; as the aquarium's star attraction, she made them lots and lots of money.

Some facts about Orcas:

  • They range from 5.5 - 9.8 metres long

  • They can live for 90 years

  • They like to get around! They migrate thousands of kilometres and can swim at speeds of up to 56kph

  • They're super intelligent and have complex social lives in their extended families, known as pods. They travel, play and hunt together and communicate with a wide range of different noises

Some facts about Toki:

  • Her 'home' was a concrete tank measuring 24m x 11m, and 6m deep

  • She was 57 years old...she knew the freedom of the ocean for a mere 4 years before that freedom and the life she was entitled to were stolen from her

  • She was denied a life with her family and the social enrichment that is natural to her species. She hadn't had the company of another orca since her tank-mate Hugo died (after repeatedly bashing his head against the side of the tank) in 1980

Anyone remember the COVID lockdowns? I thought I was going crazy after a matter of weeks; being shut in, unable to work, unable to socialise. And that was with the option to pop to the shop once a day, exercise, read books, call my family, watch films, cook whatever food I fancied, have dates with friends over Zoom....

Being shut in and feeling restricted and isolated is not natural and it's not nice.


Aquariums, zoos and circuses exist to make money and they exploit unconsenting creatures in order to achieve that. We have plenty of forms of entertainment, we don't need to be locking up our fellow beings so we have another option when planning a day out. And for those who think it's educational - there's this great guy called David Attenborough who's involved in some pretty awesome tv shows. Zoos and aquariums should never have existed, but they certainly have no place in a world of widescreen TVs and high definition. Show your children footage of animals in their natural habitats, engaging in natural behaviours, not shut in barren cages displaying disturbing habits born of boredom and depression.

Toki's plight is utterly heartbreaking and it's a shameful tragedy that despite activists fighting for years for her freedom, only her death released her from her decades of miserable imprisonment.

Toki made Miami Seaquarium money. If her story makes you sad, PLEASE boycott businesses who profit from keeping animals in captivity. Only as long as they have customers can they continue to exist.


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