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Surviving dolphins relocated from Dolphinaris to another theme park

By Laura Goldman From Care2

First, the good news: Following the deaths of four of its eight dolphins in just over two years, Dolphinaris Arizona, the controversial tourist attraction near Scottsdale, says it is permanently closing its dolphin exhibit. More than 168,000 people signed a Care2 petitionurging the facility to release its surviving dolphins.

Ever since Dolphinaris Arizona was in the planning stages, animal welfare groups warned that its location in the desert near a busy freeway was no place for dolphins. The stress from being held in captivity and forced to swim with tourists could make the dolphins more susceptible to valley fever, a deadly fungal disease. Sadly, Dolphinaris ignored these concerns, and the theme park opened in October 2016. Since then, four dolphins—BodieAliaKhloe and Kai—had to lose their lives before Dolphinaris Arizona called it quits.

Now for the bad news: While it’s great that Dolphinaris Arizona is allegedly closing, the park has shipped the four surviving dolphins—Liko, Ping, Noelani and Sonny—to yet another inappropriate location. They will now live in captivity at Coral World Ocean Park’s new St. Thomas Sea Sanctuary, a theme park in the Virgin Islands. This facility “has faced heavy opposition and controversy mainly due to its location being vulnerable to extreme weather and frequent contamination with runoff,” according to the animal welfare organization Dolphin Project.

Another concern is that the four dolphins could spread disease in their new home. These 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,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). “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.”

Dolphin Free AZ, a group that has long protested Dolphinaris Arizona, stated on itsFacebook page that it was “beyond shocking that the dolphins were placed into sea water so quickly without gradually being introduced to pathogens new to them.”

According to a Coral World Ocean Park press release, its new St. Thomas Sea Sanctuary is “the first of its kind that meets Marine Mammal Protection Act and Animal Welfare Act requirements.”

The dolphins will live in a 69,000-square-foot ocean habitat that introduces them “to a natural environment with the added advantage of being cared for by licensed veterinarians and dolphin experts who are dedicated to their health and wellbeing,” stated Lee Kellar, Coral World Ocean Park general curator.

However, what’s not at all natural about this environment is that it’s very likely the four dolphins will eventually have to swim with visitors to the theme park.

Coral World Ocean Park already offers customers who pay $122 the opportunity to swim with sea lions: “pet them, get up close, and pose for some unforgettable pictures,” says itswebsite. For $55, customers can participate in its green sea turtle encounter. “You will wade with the turtle, touch her and enjoy her company,” the website says. “Your experience is sure to make you an ambassador for the protection of these endangered sea turtles worldwide.” (Not to mention it makes Coral World $55 richer.)

Swimming with captive dolphins may be fun for people and a big moneymaker for companies that offer it, but it’s stressful for dolphins. It can lead to behavioral abnormalities, illness, lowered resistance to disease and even death, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting these marine animals.

“This is **not** a genuine sanctuary,” Dolphin Free AZ noted on its Facebook page. “Dolphins continue to be exploited at Coral World. A genuine sanctuary would promote the dignity of any animal.”

The four surviving Dolphinaris Arizona dolphins have suffered enough. They shouldn’t have to spend the rest of their lives at yet another theme park that profits from exploiting captive animals.


  • Please sign and share this petition urging Coral World Ocean Park to release the four surviving Dolphinaris Arizona dolphins to a genuine sanctuary.
  • Join over 230,000 people who have signed this petition telling FedEx to refuse to transport dolphins that are held in captivity for human entertainment.
  • Boycott tourist attractions that profit from keeping animals in captivity.

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