By Julia Lerner
Cascadia Daily News 

No concrete plans to transport Tokitae, despite hopes


Last updated 5/4/2023 at 9:57am

Hailey Hoffman, Cascadia Daily News

Raynell Morris, a member of the Lummi Nation, speaks during a January prayer ceremony for the return of killer whale Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut – also known as Tokitae – who is currently held at the Miami Seaquarium. Morris led another prayer ceremony April 27 for the orca.

No concrete plans exist to transport Tokitae, the Southern Resident orca currently housed at the Miami Seaquarium, back to Washington waters, federal agencies said this week.

In late March this year, leaders at the seaquarium, alongside Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and members of the environmental nonprofit Friends of Toki, announced ambitious plans to move the orca from a pen at the seaquarium back to waters in the Pacific Northwest, the natural habitat of Southern Resident orcas.

The plan calls for Tokitae - who performed for decades under the stage name Lolita, though members of the Lummi Nation call her Sk'aliCh'elh-tenaut - to be transported by plane from an 80-by-35-foot tank in Miami to a large net pen in an unknown location in waters between Washington and Canada. There, trainers and veterinarians would keep a close eye on the whale while teaching her how to hunt for meals and perhaps reconnect with the 73 wild Southern Residents - if that's even possible.

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