Dolphinaris Arizona suffers death of 3rd bottlenose female

Khloe, an 11-year-old female bottlenose dolphin died at Dolphinaris Arizona on Dec. 30. (photo by Dolphinaris Arizona)

A third bottlenose dolphin has died at the Dolphinaris Arizona aquatic facility on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, since its opening in fall 2016.

On Dec. 30, an 11-year-old female dolphin named Khloe died following a long, chronic illness that affected her over the last six years, according to a statement by Dolphinaris. Khloe joined Dolphinaris Arizona in 2016, according to the company.

“This is an extremely sad day for our team at Dolphinaris Arizona,” said Christian Schaeffer, Dolphinaris Arizona general manager, in a prepared statement.

“Prior to her arrival at Dolphinaris, Khloe struggled with chronic illness due to a parasite called Sarcocystis, which can affect mammals, including dolphins. This infection usually causes severe central nervous system and muscle disease, as well as weakens the immune system to other pathogens. Her condition has been managed with exceptional veterinary care for nearly six years as we called on dolphin experts globally to determine treatments that extended her life.”

When Khloe’s caregivers recently noticed her health again showing signs of decline, they took every action possible to try and save her, Dolphinaris officials stated. The mortality rate of Sarcocystis is very high, and very little is known by the veterinarian community about the disease process in dolphins, which can also affect dolphins living in the ocean, Dolphinaris officials say.

A necropsy (animal autopsy) will be conducted and Dolphinaris Arizona will share those findings with the global veterinary community in the hopes the information can aid in the treatment of other mammals affected by Sarcocystis.

The other dolphins living at Dolphinaris are all doing well, the statement says.

On May 22, a 10-year-old female bottlenose dolphin named Alia died; and in September 2017, a dolphin named Bodie died.

Dolphinaris Arizona, a product of Mexico-based Dolphinaris, has been the center of public criticism since the plans were first announced in 2016. It officially opened in October 2016.

The facility is a dolphinarium that consists of three connected pools, spanning from 2- to 10-feet deep and containing nearly 1 million gallons of filtered salt water.

Experts contend these third-generation, captive-bred dolphins have only known human care. Additionally, the facility is a licensed zoological facility and to be considered as such, research is a large part of the deal.

Dolphinaris is working with Texas A&M University, and others in the United States and Mexico, to study the finned mammals, the company says.

On Dec. 28, 18-year-old Sara Hart, a member of the Dolphinaris Blu Crew, wrote to the Independent to encourage people to give up the use of plastic straws in 2019.

“Plastic straws are detrimental to the ocean and its inhabitants. You may be thinking, I live in the desert — how will my actions affect the ocean? The answer is, the plastic reaches the oceans through the rainwater and wind that carry it to drains and streams which lead to the ocean,” Miss Hart said in her statement.

“Not only that, our desert wildlife, such as desert tortoises, are prone to eating plastic items and getting entangled in plastic bags. Even if you recycle your plastic, it may not be as effective as thought.”

According to Ms. Hart, straws are too lightweight to make it though the mechanical recycling sorter, causing them to mix with other materials to get disposed as garbage.

“Once these straws reach the ocean, they are a threat to marine life such as sea turtles, whales, dolphins and more. Sea turtles can get the straw stuck in their nose or see the straw as food and eat it,” she said.

Miss Hart states that Americans consume up to 500 million straws per day.

“Sea turtles have a 50 percent higher chance of death once they have ingested 14 pieces of plastic. Over 100 million sea animals are killed each year due to the plastic that fills our ocean, and there is an estimate of 100 million tons of plastic that is in our ocean currently,” Miss Hart said.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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