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July 15, 2019

Dolphin park in Arizona closes temporarily after death of fourth dolphin

February 11, 2019
In this Oct. 13, 2016, file photo, a dolphin plays in the water at Dolphinaris in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Matt York / AP)

An aquatic facility in Arizona popular for its swim-with-dolphin experiences faces an uncertain future after a fourth dolphin died there in the past two years.

Dolphinaris Arizona is closing for review after its 22-year-old bottlenose Kai was euthanized on Jan. 31 after having difficulty breathing.

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Khloe, an 11-year-old bottlenose, died on Dec. 30, USA Today reports. Alia, a 10-year-old bottlenose, died in May, while Bodie, a 7-year-old bottlenose, died in September 2017.

Though the Scottsdale-based facility has received four federal inspections without any citations since its opening, the facility will still close temporarily for an “outside panel of experts” to evaluate animal welfare conditions.

“We recognize losing four dolphins over the last year and a half is abnormal,” Dolphinaris general manager Christian Schaeffer told USA Today. “We will be taking proactive measures to increase our collaborative efforts to further ensure our dolphins’ well-being and high quality of life.”

The facility will be shut down starting Saturday, and refunds will be given to those who purchased experience packages for that date and beyond.

It’s unclear how long Dolphinaris will remain closed, but some employees have already been laid off.

The Hawaii-based Dolphin Quest says it has “formally terminated” its dolphin loan agreement with the park. Two of the remaining dolphins are being returned, while the company in a statement said it is “evaluating next steps for the remaining two Dolphin Quest animals.”

The facility has drawn opposition from advocacy groups such as Dolphin Free AZ, along with Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project, for keeping the aquatic mammals in captivity.

A protest last week drew more than 250 attendees, and another protest is planned for Saturday.

“We want to keep the pressure on,” Lincoln O’Barry of Dolphin Project said. “We’re going to do this until people realize Arizonians don’t want dolphins in their state. Because as long as they put dolphins in the desert, they’re going to keep having problems.”

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