Success! Dolphinaris Arizona Closes and Dolphins Removed, for Now

Since the October 2016 opening of Dolphinaris Arizona, a swim-with-dolphins tourist attraction in the desert near Scottsdale, four of its eight dolphins have become ill and died.

Animal welfare organizations and activists have been opposed to Dolphinaris Arizona ever since it was in the planning stages. The desert is no place for captive dolphins, especially since the stress of being in captivity makes them more susceptible to valley fever, a deadly fungal disease. More than 166,000 people have signed a Care2 petition urging the facility to release its surviving dolphins.

After the death of the fourth dolphin, Kai, on January 31, Dolphin Quest, a Hawaii-based company that loaned some dolphins to Dolphinaris Arizona, announced it has terminated its animal loan agreement with the tourist attraction. Two of the surviving dolphins that belong to Dolphin Quest, Noelani and Liko, will be returned to the company (probably via FedEx, which shipped the dolphins there in the first place).

When Kai died, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) sent a letter to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which oversees marine mammal parks, asking for an investigation of the conditions at Dolphinaris Arizona and a health assessment of the surviving dolphins by a team of experts including APHIS and non-governmental organization (NGO) veterinarians.

That request has apparently been granted. Dolphinaris Arizona is closing. Unfortunately, it’s only on a temporary basis while “an outside panel of experts reevaluates the facility, environmental factors, and all aspects of animal welfare at the facility,” the tourist attraction announced on February 5.

During the closure, the remaining two dolphins will be taken to “another licensed U.S. facility,” according to the announcement.

“We hope to find a long-term solution for the welfare of our dolphins,” General Manager Christian Schaeffer de Leon said in the announcement.

Here’s hoping those experts determine that the only long-term solution is to permanently shut down Dolphinaris Arizona and to free those two dolphins from captivity.

Moving dolphins to the desert is a “failed experiment,” stated Patricia Cady, co-founder of Dolphin Free AZ, a group that has long opposed Dolphinaris Arizona and has organized many protests against it. Cady is asking the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Tribal Council, which owns the land on which the tourist attraction is location, to revoke its land-lease agreement with the company and to commit to not allowing dolphins there again.

Although the two dolphins returned to Dolphin Quest are now out of the desert, they may not be out of the woods, figuratively speaking. The company provides dolphins to other tourist attractions, so Noelani and Liko will likely remain in captivity.

Swimming with dolphins may be fun for the human participants, but it’s stressful for dolphins. It can lead to behavioral abnormalities, illness and lowered resistance to disease and death, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a leading charity dedicated to protecting these marine animals. It was for these reasons that TripAdvisor made the compassionate decision three years ago to stop booking tickets to attractions that allow people to interact with captive wild animals.

It’s time for more companies, like Dolphinaris and Dolphin Quest, to follow TripAdvisor’s lead and stop exploiting captive animals for profit.

Take Action

  • Please sign and share this petition urging Dolphinaris Arizona to release its surviving dolphins on a permanent basis.
  • Join over 226,000 people who have signed this petition telling FedEx to refuse to transport animals that are held in captivity.
  • If you live near the area, join one of the protests held outside Dolphinaris Arizona. Check the Dolphin Free AZ Facebook page for dates and times.
  • Boycott — and tell everyone you know to boycott — tourist attractions that profit from keeping animals in captivity.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. Youll find Care2s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.


Photo credit: eberhartmark


Chad Anderson
Chad A1 days ago

Thank you.

Jacqueline G

We all need to boycott Dolphin Quest. If tourists don't buy the tickets,they'll go out of business. Vote with your money. Or I should say without your money.

Sophie A
Sophie A5 days ago

thanks for sharing

Marija M
Marija M5 days ago

;) good news, tks.

ANA MARIJA R6 days ago

well said, Fred L

Georgina Elizab M


oliver mally
oliver mally7 days ago


Leo C
Leo C7 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

Fred L
Fred L7 days ago

Good news that Dolphinaris Arizona is closed for now. Let's hope that becomes permanent, and that Dolphin Quest develops a conscience (not likely, but one can only hope) and releases their enslaved dolphins to open ocean pens.

Anne M
Anne M7 days ago

Good news - thanks!