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Is Toki Geriatric?

According to research from NOAA, the average lifespan of female killer whales is about 50 years, and the average lifespan of male killer whales is about 30 years old. Toki at an estimated 58 years old, which surpasses that average. The term "geriatric" refers generally to old age. For humans, that is around 65 years old, which is more than 10 years below the average human lifespan. As Toki is past her average lifespan, it is reasonable to use the term "geriatric" with her.

Lii and Loke are two Pacific white sided dolphins who have been living alongside Toki since 1988, that is over 35 years. Pacific white-sided dolphins, commonly referred to as “lags”, have an average lifespan of only 36-40 years. Lii and Loke are both estimated to be about 40 years old and subsequently geriatric as well.

All three of these animals are past the average lifespan for wild individuals. These animals are older, currently battling a variety of illnesses and have weakened immune systems. We believe that even the sheer stress of moving them could push their fragile immune systems over the edge and result in their death.

As with many facts of nature, the true lifespan of killer whales depends on many variables and is an active field of research. For more resources on the lifespan of killer whales in the wild and human care, here's a non-exhaustive list:

  1. (Robeck et al., comparison between wild and captive populations)

  2. (rebuttal of Robeck et al.)

  3. (Robeck et al. response to rebuttal)

  4. (meta-review done by Nature)

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