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By: Roya Li

Tokitae, or Toki, the oldest captive orca, will eventually be released into her "home waters" in the Puget Sound outside Washington state. The 57-year-old orca was captured and sold to the Miami Seaquarium in Florida when she was four years old. She entertained park visitors for more than 50 years before retiring in 2022.

On March 30, all the orcas were released from the Seaquarium, and Toki will be reintroduced to the wild gradually. If all goes well, the orca will eventually be reunited with her family. Toki is believed to be the daughter of the leader of the L-pod. This is one of three groups that make up the population of southern resident killer whales. Endangered orcas live in the Salish Sea off the coast of Washington state and British Columbia. As of July 2021, only 73 southern residents remain.

While hailed as a victory by animal activists, Toki's release did not excite her former caregivers. They believe the animal was in poor health and the stress of the move, which could take several days, could have killed her. She may also be sensitive to pollutants in seawater.

Instead, they recommended keeping her in Florida. One option is to transfer her to SeaWorld Orlando. Sea Zoo has one of the largest orca habitats in the world. They also have the expertise to provide the care Toki needs. Plus, it only takes a few hours to move, which is less traumatic for the orcas.

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