MIAMI — Tokitae has shared her tank with a few other animals since arriving at the Miami Seaquarium in September of 1970 - including two creatures who may end up traveling with her to the Salish Sea.
When Tokitae arrived at the Seaquarium she was put into a tank with Hugo, another orca who was captured from the Puget Sound a year and a half before she was. They lived in what was called a "whale bowl," an 80-by-35-foot tank.
"This is where her remarkable character begins to show," said Howard Garrett, with The Orca Network. "That she accepted her circumstances, 'That's the way it is, okay, I've got to live my best life in this circumstance in this tank.'"
Hugo died in 1980 from a brain aneurysm after repeatedly banging his head against the wall of their shared tank.
Below is a video of Tokitae and Hugo in their tank in the 70s:
Since then, Tokitae has either lived alone or with dolphins.
The Miami Seaquarium says right now, she's in a tank with a Pacific white-sided dolphin named Li'i. KING 5 has learned the plan is to move Li'i with Tokitae to her new sea pen.
Charles Vinick with the Whale Sanctuary Project says orcas are social animals, and having another animal with her will be beneficial for her health.
"Everything we know scientifically about orca are that they are very social," Vinick said. If you look at it scientifically their brains are more convoluted in the communication and emotion than the human brain, so we've seen evidence, certainly here with the Southern Residents, of their connection to one another, their connection to family. So having her with a companion, even if it's a dolphin companion she knows well, is certainly something that is ideal."
Vinick says they still need to make sure regulators agree with all the steps, but they are hopeful she won't be alone in the sea pen. He also says the trainers she depends on the most will be coming with her for the move.