Ownership by The Dolphin Company
Since the capture of Tokitae from the Salish Sea to a life of captivity, her journey revolved around business transactions. A commodity rather than a sentient being. Another business transaction occurred in 2022, when The Dolphin Company took official ownership of the Miami Seaquarium where the orca was currently residing.
On June 2, 2022, The Whale Sanctuary Project posted an article with documentation and findings on the first assessment of Tokitae, done by veterinarians independent of Miami Seaquarium. The documentation of the complete report of the assessment, done by James McBain, DVM and Stephanie Norman, DVM, PhD shared this finding:
“Most importantly, we noted that, in the period beginning in late December 2021 and continuing into March 2022, just prior to the change of management of the Miami Seaquarium (MSQ) from Palace Entertainment to MS Leisure (The Dolphin Company), Toki suffered from an acute illness evidenced through her blood examinations and behavior monitoring. This was a very serious health event. Bloodwork results and responses to treatment confirmed this illness and the ongoing subsequent recovery, but they did not specifically reveal the cause of this illness.”
Why was her cause of illness not specified to these independent veterinarians? Why weren’t they transparent with her previous health issues? The theme of hiding history within Tokitae’s story, and only revealing information that benefits them for good publicity, seems to be the common trend here.
This is evident in Animal Welfare Act violations and USDA Inspection Reports that highlight the real concerns and ongoing issues behind the scenes. According to a USDA Inspection report, shared by Sacred Sea, highlighting the quality and quantity of Tokitae’s diet, quality of the water, injuries she accumulated due to an inadequate sized tank, all in which led to a detrimental effect on her health. She was costing them money and her conditions were unlawful. This USDA inspection report concluded that she was being fed poor quality and rotten food, the stadium itself was a safety hazard, the water quality was atrocious, she was not provided shade and shelter from the heat, and overall, her environment was completely inadequate for housing an orca. The report claims,
“The decisions to decrease Toki’s base and continue to feed poor quality capelin to park animals were subsequently made without the AV’s approval.”
“Upon review of medical records for the cetaceans in the stadium, a number of water quality concerns were noted. On April 26th, 2021, a pump broke under the whale stadium. Cloudy water and foam bubbles accumulated at the surface of the pool.”
How is this place still allowed to be open and house these beings? Inspection reports can be done, but where is the action to right these wrongs? What would become of Toki if the Miami Seaquarium could not comply and keep up to date with regulations?
In March 2023, it was publicly announced that Tokitae / Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut / Lolita would be relocated to her home waters in the Pacific Northwest. It was estimated that this relocation would take 18-24 months. The operational plan, shared by the Whale Sanctuary Project, stating that they have comprehensive evaluations and detailed descriptions of the transfer, along with the financial support of Jim Irsay, Indianapolis Colts CEO, who told The Pat McAfee Show, “She’s healthy, I’ve got the money, let’s move her,” it all sounded like a viable option from a PR point of view. On a surface level at least.
Was this announcement to appease the Lummi nation? Was it for good publicity? Or was it because they could not keep up with the violations of infrastructure and could not comply with regulations in regards to licensing and permits for the facility that housed her? If it turned out her relocation was not a viable solution for Toki, would the donor have contributed to the reconstruction of her tank to ensure it was up to codes and standards? Why was this not considered earlier if the reality was that a relocation wasn’t realistically possible? Was it because she could not be easily transferred?
If they supposedly had the money, but the timeline of the transfer and sea sanctuary was the issue, was Toki just in the way from another business endeavour and once again, costing them more money. Let’s see what plans are in store for the lands in which her whale bowl occupies.
There are many perspectives of the release of Tokitae back into her home waters, in a seaside sanctuary, within the Pacific Northwest. Some were against it, claiming she is not a viable candidate. Others were for it stating it is where she belongs. However, it is not that black and white, but rather, a whole grey area, in which legal factors, safety violations, a call to action by the Lummi nation, and more, led to the decision of the publicity stunt. Once again, shifting the narrative in their favour.
However, an updated NOAA Fisheries statement states, “At the time of her death, we had not received any proposals upon which to act; therefore, we were unable to evaluate any potential action.” They were never going to release her back home.
What is significant here is the timing of the announcement of her release. When it came to the whale bowl at Miami Seaquarium, there were rulings they had to comply with to address the condition of the water, the peelings paints, the size, and more if they were to continue to keep her there from being unable to transfer her. Did they have the intention of moving her or was it just a publicity stunt because her fate had already been determined by federal regulations of her whale bowl and the timelines of the two did not align?
Permits, Licensing, and The Expiration Date
What does the paper trail of documentation show us? Themedreality has done extensive work, investigations, and research on accumulating court documentations, FOIA and reports in the timeline of Tokitae’s story. The truth is in the timeline. They do not trust empty words; they trust the data. In a blog post titled, “Two Expirations: repair order on Whale Bowl and Tokitae,” the accumulation of documents is compiled into a timeline highlighting numerous code violations, stating what permits needed to be obtained to continue to house the orca, including a Consent Agreement from the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources- Code Compliance Division, and an email with subject titled, “Miami Seaquarium Whale Bowl, Case No. 20210211387” that discusses the ‘whale bowl facility/structure.’ As well as minutes from an Unsafe Structures Board Hearing that took place on September 21, 2022. This document from the hearing contains rulings giving conditions that must be followed for the structure containing Tokitae.
The rulings clarify that:
• “The structure was to be repaired or completed with Engineer’s Certification and Architect/Engineer’s sealed plans.”
• “A building permit must be obtained for all repairs or items to be completed – these documents are to be submitted to the Unsafe Structures Unit for approval.” “The building permit must be obtained by a licensed contractor pursuant to section 10(5)-2of the Miami Dade county code- within one hundred eighty (180) days from today.” 180 days. This would bring us to March 20, 2023. The release of Tokitae back to her home waters was announced on March 30, 2023. Interesting that the announcement of her release followed six months following the hearing.
• “The completion of the building repair shall conform to the Florida Building code unless application is made pursuant to the provision of section 8-11(g) of the code of Miami Dade County and shall be completed within 120 days after obtaining the permit.”
Why would they spend a significant amount of money and resources on this if she was no longer profitable? A huge expense for a facility with a damning reputation. So essentially, Miami Seaquarium would have to follow these protocols or, within the ruling it states, “If any of the above conditions are not complied with, said structure(s) shall be demolished by the enforcing municipality as soon as possible.” Were all these conditions complied with?
Themedreality wrote, “The 120 days to comply with the September order would then take effect starting April 19, the day the extension request was withdrawn. Building permit 2023041050 for the shorings was issued on April 19. Add 120 days and you get Thursday, August 17, 2023. Protocol for County-owned property is to force eviction once a deadline is reached if there is a failure for compliance or an extension request. Tokitae died August 18.” With the pressure, wouldn’t it make sense for Miami Seaquarium to announce the release of Tokitae? Where else was she to go as they were unable to temporarily transfer her to other facilities during the reconstruction of her whale bowl?
It was stated if the Miami Seaquarium could not comply, then demolition of her tank would occur. How soon after her death will the tank be demolished? How soon after this demolition will a new plan for
further profit come into fruition? The findings of TheMedReality show there are many complex layers to the injustices done to the killer whale, Tokitae. As the public, it is our duty and responsibility to look for the whole truth in regards to her death. We cannot accept the answers we have been given in regards to her death. It is not enough.
The Death and Necropsy
In August 2023, the alarming report by Miami Seaquarium, who released a health update on Toki, shared that she was showing signs of severe gastrointestinal discomfort. This severe gastrointestinal discomfort started August 16, 2023, despite the reports that she was in great health just a few days prior by the Seaquarium themselves, and those that saw her in her final days. The building permit expiration date was August 17, 2023 and Tokitae died on August 18, 2023. If you look at the timeline and take into consideration the pressure with permits, code violations, licensing, and whale bowl reconstruction the Miami Seaquarium was under for this killer whale, would you call this a coincidence? What happened? Was it because the permit for her whale bowl expired on August 17, 2023 and she could not be as easily transferred as her dolphin companion, Li’i? Look at the date her discomfort began and the day the building permit expired. What went wrong?
On the Instagram profile, “untillolitaishome” there is video footage by Dr. Claire Paris- Limouzy of many key players in Tokitae’s journey. This raises the question of how everyone knew to be there, the day of her death, with a sling ready. There could be many speculations for this. With the announcement of her release, it wouldn’t be suspicious to see a sling and transport materials at the ready. Unless the death was known.
In the announcement of her passing, the Miami Seaquarium wrote, “she passed away Friday afternoon from what is believed to be a renal condition.” However, multiple individuals who worked in the industry question this suspicious assumption. Edward Akromas, former trainer told NBC Miami, “Also, from working in zoological institutions for more than 20 years, you don’t say what the condition was that the animal passed from until that necropsy, from an outside source, comes back that determines exactly what happened because you don’t want to make assumptions.” From the article titled, “Lolita: Former trainers question reason for orca’s death” by John Pacenti on wlrn.org, Marni Wood, who worked at the Miami Seaquarium, said, “So the renal failure is very suspicious to me, I cannot imagine how they
would know that without doing a necropsy.” Shanna Simpson, former trainer of Toki claimed, “I’ve worked with animals for 21 years now and if you were doing regular blood check-ups on your animals, you know where their kidneys stand,” This article also states, “Blood samples taken early last week gave no indication of the pending organ failure, he said [Charles Vinick].”
Toki’s body was sent off for the necropsy to the University of Georgia the night of her passing. Was it was previously discussed what protocols were in place for a necropsy of this orca? Did they know this information beforehand and have it all calculated? Are we choosing to believe the renal failure narrative? Is there more to the story?
The week of September 5, 2023, themedReality wrote, “We have spoken with a NOAA official and confirmed that there is no requirement under the Endangered Species Act to release Tokitae’s necropsy result.” The week of September 12, 2023, Eduardo Albor, CEO of the Dolphin Company, wrote in a reply on the app formerly known as Twitter, that there would be public announcements on the remaining Pacific Whitesided Dolphin, Li’i, in the whale bowl, and secondly, an announcement on Tokitae’s necropsy results. Why aren’t the necropsy results being made public yet? What is the delay?
On October 6 2023, a source who wishes to be remain unnamed, released information regarding Tokitae’s death to the Miami New Times. The article, written by Izzy Kapnick, went on to explain that a medical procedure was scheduled on the day she died. It states that sources observed blood coming from Tokitae’s mouth region following the medical procedure, which should raise suspicion and cause for investigation, as this could indicate hemorrhage or a negative reaction to a medication. Miami Seaquarium was not transparent with the public regarding this procedure. Just as they were not transparent with NOAA regarding the necropsy report, because they were not legally obligated to do so. Did they know all this information beforehand?
In the updated statement, NOAA Fisheries claims that they received a report on her cause of death. This report lacked the necropsy results. NOAA stated,
“On September 14, 2023, Miami Seaquarium reported to NOAA Fisheries Tokitae’s cause of death but did not provide a necropsy report. Miami Seaquarium was not legally required by NOAA to perform a necropsy on Tokitae nor to provide NOAA a copy of those results. In addition, NOAA does not require notification of the transport of deceased ESA-listed species, including their ashes.”
Did Miami Seaquarium even conduct a necropsy on Tokitae?
This is all just the surface level of what has occurred in the events leading up to the death of the beloved Tokitae / Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut. Many are investigating further. I encourage you to do the same. To use your voice, discernment, and due diligence to seek the truth. Do not stop asking the difficult questions when it comes to her last year of life. How can an orca, whose health was on a positive trajectory, succumb to death within a day after the whale bowl permit expiration date? Nothing adds up- not with what they’re telling the media, not with the announcement of her release, of what was going on with her whale bowl and the stadium- absolutely nothing aligns. We demand the truth of what happened to her in August 2023. Why won’t the necropsy results be released to the public?
Miami Seaquarium, we’re looking at you.
The Dolphin Company and Eduardo Albor, we’re looking at you.
NOAA, you fail her and her population, The Southern Resident Killer Whales, in every single regard. We’re looking at you.
The power lies with us- where we spend our money, how we use our voice, what we choose to believe in this narrative. If government officials do not take action to shut down Miami Seaquarium, owned by the Dolphin Company, then we, the public, will make sure of it. And when Miami Seaquarium / The Dolphin Company demolishes the whale bowl, and it becomes nothing but rubble and dust, that isn’t the end of Toki’s story.
It is only the beginning.
Written by Sherilyn Roseanne
Date: October 6, 2023
Fisheries, N. (2023). Southern resident killer whales: Questions and answers on final rule to include Tokitae in ESA listing: Updated October 2023. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/west-coast/endangered-species-conservation/southern-resident-killer-whales-questions-and-answers
Guenot, M. (2023). A billionaire wants to use a cargo plane to fly an orca to freedom after 53 years in captivity. here’s how it could work. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/orca-killer-whale-fly-billionaire-plane-years-captivity-lolita-tokitae-2023-8
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Pacenti, J. (2023, September 27). Lolita: Former trainers queJOstion reason for orca’s death. WLRN. https://www.wlrn.org/environment/2023-08-22/lolita-former-trainers-orca-death
Team, M. S. (2023). Lolita whale Miami. https://updates-lolita.miamiseaquarium.com/blog/updates-lolita-august-15th-2023/
The Whale Sanctuary Project | Back to Nature. (2023). Lolita: Fame and misfortune – the whale sanctuary project: Back to nature. https://whalesanctuaryproject.org/whales/lolita-fame-misfortune/
The Whale Sanctuary Project | Back to Nature. (2023). Tokitae the Orca’s legacy – the whale sanctuary project: Back to nature. The Whale Sanctuary Project | Back to Nature. https://whalesanctuaryproject.org/tokitae-the-orcas-legacy/