Yet Another Dolphin Has Died at Dolphinaris in the Arizona Desert

Just one month after a bottlenose dolphin named Khloe died at Dolphinaris Arizona, another dolphin, Kai, has died there. Since the controversial tourist attraction opened less than three years ago, four of its eight captive dolphins—half of them—are now dead.

Kai, 22, died on Jan. 31, two weeks after he began having difficulty swimming, eating and breathing, Christian Schaeffer, the general manager of Dolphinaris, said in a statement.

“We made the extremely difficult decision to humanely euthanize Kai ensuring he would pass peacefully,” Schaeffer said.

Here’s another decision Schaeffer and Dolphinaris Aquarium should be making ASAP: to shut down this deathtrap.

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

Oh, please. The obvious way to ensure the well-being and quality of life of these dolphins is to remove them from this tourist attraction in the Sonoran Desert.

Even before Dolphinaris Arizona was built, animal welfare advocates were concerned that it was a terrible idea to keep dolphins captive there. Summer temperatures regularly hit triple digits, and the tourist attraction is located near a busy freeway. The heat and noise, as well as the stress of being kept in captivity, make the dolphins more vulnerable to valley fever, a deadly fungal disease. More than 211,000 people signed a Care2 petition urging Dolphinaris and its parent company, Ventura Entertainment, not to build the park.

Less than a year after Dolphinaris Arizona opened in October 2016, those concerns, unsurprisingly, turned out to be well-founded.

The first dolphin to die was Bodie, who was only seven years old in September 2017 when he succumbed to what Dolphinaris first claimed was a rare muscle condition. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that Bodie had actually died of a fungal infection. Dolphinaris then backpedaled and said that the muscle disease was the secondary cause of Bodie’s death.

Next to die was Alia, 10, who suffered an acute bacterial infection in May 2018. Seven months later, Khloe, who was also 10, died. Wild bottlenose dolphins that aren’t confined to tanks in the desert have an average lifespan of 45 to 50 years.

Dolphin Quest, the Hawaii-based company that has loaned dolphins to Dolphinaris Arizona by shipping them there via FedEx, announced after Kai’s death that it has terminated its animal loan agreement with the tourist attraction. It is currently “evaluating next steps for the remaining two Dolphin Quest animals” that are on loan there.

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), one of the organizations that fought the opening of Dolphinaris Arizona, has sent a letter to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which oversees marine mammal parks. The AWI is calling for an investigation of the conditions at Dolphinaris and a health assessment of the four surviving dolphins by a team of experts, including APHIS and non-governmental organization (NGO) veterinarians.

“With each subsequent death, the onus has shifted more firmly to Dolphinaris — and, indeed, to APHIS — to demonstrate that airborne fungal or other pathogens or deficiencies in Dolphinaris’ life support systems do not pose a risk to the surviving dolphins and/or that no other inherent characteristic of Dolphinaris and its location is a threat to the animals,” the letter stated.

APHIS is “working on the next course of action,” an agency spokesperson told ABC 15.

That course of action seems like a no-brainer: shut down Dolphinaris Arizona before the remaining four dolphins suffer the same fate as Bodie, Alia, Khloe and Kai.

Take Action

  • Please join over 164,000 people who have signed this petition urging Dolphinaris Arizona to release its remaining dolphins.
  • Boycott this and all other 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. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.


Photo credit: azfamily powered by 3TV & CBS5AZ/YouTube


joan s
joan silacoabout a month ago

Maybe the word desert tells you something?!

Jane Howard
Jane Howardabout a month ago

How many lives must die before the RIGHT DECISION (EMPTY TANKS) IS MADE?

Leo C
Leo Custerabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing!

Melanie St. Germaine
Melanie St. Germaineabout a month ago

The exploitation of animals has to stop.

Carol J
Carol Johnsonabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing

rita uljee
rita uljeeabout a month ago

so criminal Dolphins in the desert most stop! sign over and over again!

danii p
danii pabout a month ago


danii p
danii pabout a month ago


Ruth R
Ruth Rabout a month ago

Thank You. Please sign this petition. (aquarium is temp. closed.) Please continue to sign the petition.
" You signed on May 31, 2018
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166,989 SUPPORTERS 170,000 GOAL '

Carole R
Carole Rabout a month ago

So very sad.