The Miami Seaquarium said in a Facebook post that Tokitae began "exhibiting serious signs of discomfort" over the past two days. Tokitae received treatment from her medical team but died Friday afternoon due to what is believed to be a renal condition.
Tokitae lived in a concrete tank at the Miami Seaquarium for the last 53 years. The Lummi Nation, activists and animal welfare advocates had been fighting for years to bring her back to the Salish Sea.
Across the Puget Sound region, people mourned the loss of the orca on Friday, who had become a symbol for the plight of the Southern Resident pods. Their population has dwindled in recent years as the endangered orcas face numerous challenges, including diminished salmon populations -- their main source of food, pollution, increased water traffic and noise pollution, and more.
The Orca Network announced that a vigil will be held on Saturday to honor Tokitae. It will be at the Langley Whale Center from 6-8 p.m.
KING 5 has been following Tokitae's journey from her violent capture in the Salish Sea, to her decades at the Miami Seaquarium - and the effort to bring her back again.
RELATED: Tokitae's Journey
Tokitae was the last surviving orca of the whales that were captured from Puget Sound and sold into captivity. She was violently taken from her pod in August 1970 near Whidbey Island's Penn Cove.
Tokitae was sold to the Miami Seaquarium for about $20,000. She was believed to be just 4 years old.
Tokitae arrived in Miami in late September of 1970. She was said to be "depressed" upon her arrival, refusing to eat. Over the next fifty-plus years, Tokitae performed for crowds of hundreds under the name Lolita.
While protests went on for several years, it wasn’t until 2018 that the momentum behind the fight to free Toki got a huge boost thanks to the Lummi Nation.
You can read the Seaquarium's full statement below:
Over the last two days, Toki started exhibiting serious signs of discomfort, which her full Miami Seaquarium and Friends of Toki medical team began treating immediately and aggressively. Despite receiving the best possible medical care, she passed away Friday afternoon from what is believed to be a renal condition. Toki was an inspiration to all who had the fortune to hear her story and especially to the Lummi nation that considered her family. Those of us who have had the honor and privilege to spend time with her will forever remember her beautiful spirit.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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