Tokitae – Reflections on a Life

Kimmela co-presented a live and streamed event entitled Tokitae – Reflections on a Life: Evolving Science and the Need for Better Laws in November at the GW Law School in Washington D.C. Five experts in science and animal law and policy discussed the captive marine mammal industry and ways we can end the keeping of orcas and other cetaceans in concrete tanks for entertainment.

Tokitae, an orca also known as Lolita and Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut, died in August 2023 at the Miami Seaquarium after having been taken from her family in the Pacific Northwest and forced to live for 53 years in a concrete tank.

A plan for her release to a natural sea pen in her natal waters had been announced just a few months earlier in March.

Tokitae’s captivity spurred development of rigorous scientific evaluation as well as legal attempts to increase her protection and seek her release. Sadly, she died before these efforts could come to fruition.

This event explored what happened and what needs to happen to address the captivity of cetaceans and other animals for entertainment. Speakers addressed the law’s failure to follow science, to protect vulnerable beings, and to meet and improve legal obligations and will suggest pathways forward.

Miranda Eisen – Outreach & State Policy Specialist, Farm Sanctuary
Georgia Hancock – Director and Senior Attorney, Animal Welfare Institute’s Marine Life Program
Kathy Hessler – Assistant Dean, GW Animal Law Program
Lori Marino – President and Founder, Kimmela Center and the Whale Sanctuary Project
Elizabeth (Liddy) Stein – Litigation Director, Nonhuman Rights Project