Dolphinaris ships remaining dolphins housed near Scottsdale to Virgin Islands

A file photo of animal welfare advocates who have been protesting Dolphinaris Arizona since its opening near Scottsdale. (submitted photo)

Four dolphins being transferred from Dolphinaris Arizona have arrived safely in their new home: Coral World Ocean Park, which is a U.S. licensed marine habitat in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Facility officials made a formal announcement confirming the move Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Their relocation was a joint decision with Dolphin Quest, who owns two of the dolphins, to keep all four together to maintain the bond that they have established during their two years together at Dolphinaris, according to a press release.

Alia, a dolphin living at Dolphinaris, died on May 22. (submitted photo)

Dolphinaris Arizona — near Scottsdale — announced a temporary closure beginning Friday, Feb. 8 while an outside panel of experts re-evaluates the facility, environmental factors, and all aspects of animal welfare at the facility, officials say.

The closing is a voluntary and proactive measure by Dolphinaris while the team works with an outside panel of experts to investigate potential factors that may have contributed to the death of dolphins at the facility since its opening in October 2016, the facility said at the time.

“Dolphins in the wild follow a fission-fusion social grouping, which means that they naturally move between different groups of dolphins throughout their lives,” Christian Schaeffer, general manager of Dolphinaris Arizona said in a prepared statement.

“While they are very social animals and are able to adjust well to dynamic social groups, we are keeping these four dolphin friends together to help them acclimate to their new home.”

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

To ensure a safe and smooth transition, the dolphins were transported by private jet, accompanied by their trainers and veterinary staff. All four dolphins are reported to be happy and healthy in their new environment, the press release states.

Marine mammal specialists will stay with them to help them adjust successfully.
Coral World Ocean Park offers interactive experiential learning programs for the public in a large, natural, ocean fed dolphin sanctuary.

The dolphins were transferred from Dolphinaris Arizona while the facility is closed temporarily for evaluation.

Dolphinaris is optimistic its place of business will reopen as a new concept, not involving dolphins, and continue to carry out its mission in ocean conservation and education.

Meanwhile, evaluation of the Dolphinaris Arizona facility, including water testing and lab testing by pathologists, is still underway. No conclusions regarding what might have contributed to the health issues of the other dolphins have been made, the press release stated.

Kai, 22, died at Dolphinaris Arizona on Jan. 31. (Photo by Dolphinaris Arizona)

The Animal Welfare Institute issued a statement after learning of the dolphin transfer late Tuesday evening.

“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, in the statement.

“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 two dolphins must live in this polluted water all day, every day.”

According to AWI, 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.

“The public display industry often says that dolphins born in concrete tanks 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.”

PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman also issued a statement on Thursday, Feb. 21, in response to Dolphinaris Arizona’s announcement.

“It took two years, four dead dolphins, and a horrified public for Dolphinaris Arizona finally to concede that these highly intelligent, social, far-ranging animals don’t belong in captivity, and if this facility reopens, PETA urges it to do so without any animals,” Ms. Reiman 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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