MIAMI — A Pacific white-sided dolphin that was a longtime companion to Lolita, the famed killer whale at the Miami Seaquarium, has been moved from the South Florida attraction to SeaWorld San Antonio.
Li’i, a 200-pound male dolphin considered to be elderly at 40 years old, was transported in a container filled with cold water on Sunday night, the Miami Herald reported. The dolphin was flown on a Boeing 767, accompanied by a trainer and two veterinarians, and will be reunited with two of his offspring, according to the newspaper.
“Although we will very much miss him, we feel happy to know this is the best for him,” the Seaquarium said n a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Thank you to all the team from Miami Seaquarium and The Dolphin Company for making this possible and thank you to all the people who always expressed their interest in Li’i’s welfare, just as we did.”
For more than 35 years, Li’i shared the Whale Bowl tank with Lolita, a female orca, at the Miami Seaquarium, WPLG-TV reported. He was captured off the coast of California in 1983, according to the Herald.
“Li’i’s trip was a success,” Christopher Dold, SeaWorld’s chief zoological officer, told the Herald. “He’s an older dolphin who has never moved before but he was very calm throughout the flight. We placed him in the water here early this morning and he is alert and interactive. He can see the other animals he will soon be living with.”
The Miami Seaquarium recently transferred two other dolphins to The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, WTVJ reported.
“Today we are happy to welcome a new member to our SeaWorld family,” SeaWorld San Antonio said in a Facebook post. “SeaWorld San Antonio is one of only two places in the United States to care for his species, and our veterinary team is experienced with caring for older animals like Li’i and can provide a custom care regimen that will be in his best interest.”
Officials with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals expressed dismay with the move, according to WFOR-TV.
“By violating its promise to send Li’i to a seaside sanctuary and condemning him to spend the rest of his life in yet another concrete cell, the Miami Seaquarium has failed this long-suffering dolphin, just as it failed Lolita,” Tracy Reiman, PETA’s executive vice president, said in a statement. “Li’i deserves the chance to return to his ocean home, to explore, dive, and finally feel some sense of freedom after nearly 35 years spent in a chlorinated concrete tank. PETA urges the Seaquarium to give him the peaceful oceanic retirement he is owed and send him to a seaside sanctuary.”