The second dolphin in five months has died at Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage Las Vegas. “Maverick” died at age 19 following treatment for a lung infection that “took a turn for the worse in recent weeks,” according to an internal letter from the Mirage’s interim president, Franz Kallao, to his team members. Maverick was the son of Duchess and Banjo, both bottlenose dolphins.
In April, Bella, 13, another bottlenose dolphin, died at the resort of a gastrointestinal illness.
In his letter, Kallao described the type of medical treatment the dolphins at the resort receive. They include “weekly physical exams by veterinarians and a weekly meeting to review all aspects related to animal welfare including veterinary, behavioral and water quality.”
Not Much of a Habitat
According to the Mirage’s website, Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat “opened in 1990 with a focus on scientific research, education, and conservation outreach.” Not according to Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the 501 (c)(3) nonprofit animal activist group Animal Welfare Institute.
“There are no publications that I’m aware of using the dolphins at The Mirage that are valuable to conservation of wildlife goals,” she told The Nevada Current in April, adding that the only Mirage research is in captive husbandry. “In other words, how can we keep these animals alive longer and breeding better?”
Wild bottlenose dolphins typically live 40 to 60 years, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. However, the average survival time in captivity for all bottlenose dolphins who live for more than one year is 12 years, 9 months and 8 days.
Since the Dolphin Habitat opened, 15 dolphins have been born in captivity. Eight are dead, one was stillborn, and another lived two weeks, according to Ceta-Base, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that compiles records of whales, dolphins, and porpoises held in captivity. The average age of the eight dolphins who died was five. Another four dolphins captured from the wild have died at the Mirage, according to Ceta-Base.
Hard Questions for Hard Rock
Hard Rock International, the Florida-based company that purchased The Mirage from MGM Resorts International for $1.075 billion last year, plans to rebrand the resort, including demolishing the entire front of the property. The fate of the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat has not been announced, though neither is expected to survive the rebranding.
“The fact that Hard Rock apparently hasn’t given it much thought, or at least not to the point where they’re willing to say something to the media, isn’t promising,” Rose told the Current. Referring to the popular documentary about a killer whale held captive by San Diego’s SeaWorld, she explained: “This is the post-Blackfish world we’re living in, and if they’re unaware that the zeitgeist has shifted, that’s not being very savvy, business-wise.”
Rose said she thought the Hard Rock should look into transferring the dolphins to a sea-pen sanctuary instead of another zoo. “If they don’t think about this more carefully, they’re going to end up looking bad, when in fact, they really have almost nothing to do with this issue,” she said.
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