AWI Statement on Transfer of Dolphins from Dolphinaris Arizona

Photo by Huskyherz
Photo by Huskyherz

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has confirmed from contacts on the ground that the last four remaining bottlenose dolphins at Dolphinaris Arizona were transferred out of the facility late last night. It is our understanding that the dolphins were flown to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, to take up temporary, or possibly permanent, residence in the newly constructed dolphin sea pen at Coral World Ocean Park in Water Bay.

“We are still not certain what caused the deaths of four dolphins at Dolphinaris within an 18-month period, said Dr. Naomi Rose, AWI’s marine mammal scientist. “Now, the four remaining captive-born dolphins who are potentially immunocompromised, will be held in a sea pen enclosure in a bay known for its limited water circulation and poor water quality. Based on Clean Water Act monitoring, Water Bay is not fit for human swimmers 40 percent of the year. These four dolphins must live in this polluted water all day, every day.”

On February 5, Dolphinaris announced that it would temporarily close while an “outside" panel of veterinarians, pathologists, water quality experts and animal behavior specialists evaluates the dolphinarium following the death of a fourth dolphin in less than two years.

Dolphinaris has not yet declared that its closure is permanent, leaving open the possibility that the four dolphins' stay at Coral World will only be temporary. If their stay is extended, however, AWI is seriously concerned for the welfare and even survival of these animals given Water Bay’s history of water quality issues.

“The public display industry often says that dolphins born in concrete tanks, such as Sonny and Ping, cannot handle the contaminants and pathogens they would encounter in the ocean if they were ‘set free,’” Dr. Rose added. “However, even placing them in a sea pen raises similar concerns using this logic. The hypocrisy on the part of the captive display industry here is noteworthy: It’s okay to send tank-born dolphins to a sea pen when it’s convenient for management, but not when it’s in the dolphins’ best interest.”

“AWI believes all dolphins can be retired to seaside sanctuaries, but such a sanctuary would never be located in a polluted bay,” Rose continued. “This enclosure was sited for the convenience of Coral World, which is on the adjacent shore, not for the welfare of the dolphins who will be kept there.”

Coral World has stated that it plans to house up to 10 dolphins on a regular basis, including six the first year, but as many as 18 once breeding begins. It is unclear where the facility will procure the remaining dolphins.

Media Contact Information

Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, [email protected]