Discrepancy in reported cause of death at Dolphinaris raises new concerns

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Bodie the dolphin died on September 23. (Source: Dolphinaris) Bodie the dolphin died on September 23. (Source: Dolphinaris)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A death report obtained by CBS 5 Investigates shows a different cause of death for “Bodie” the dolphin, than was initially reported by Dolphinaris Arizona.

Bodie died on September 23.

Dolphinaris issued a statement last month that said Bodie had been experiencing a “rare muscle disease.”

[RELATED: 'Bodie' the dolphin dies at Dolphinaris Arizona]

But records obtained this afternoon from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which keeps a catalog of marine mammals in captivity, notes the cause of death as a “fungal infection.”

Animal rights groups say that is significant.

"We were suspicious when we heard the original cause of death, that the real cause of death was a fungal infection," said Stepanie Nichols-Young with the Animal Defense League of Arizona. Arizona accounts for a majority of the country’s Valley Fever cases. Nichols-Young said dolphins are susceptible to Valley Fever, which is one of the reasons activists protested the idea of moving dolphins to the desert, when Dolphinaris opened its doors in Scottsdale last year.

But a spokesperson for Dolphinarus Arizona tells us Bodie did not have Valley fever, but had mucormycosis, and that the infection was secondary to the muscle disease. She said mucormycosis affects dolphins both in captivity and in the wild, and that it presents itself differently in each host. In Bodie's case, she said, it presented itself as a muscle disease, which is rare. When asked why they listed the muscle disease as the cause of death on their website and not the infection, the spokesperson said their veterinarians talk about the two as though they are one and the same, and they were not trying to mislead anyone. She also said the other seven dolphins in their care are doing well, and that they are in good standing with the USDA and gave the necropsy report to the USDA. 

Nichols-Young said she'd like to see the facility be more transparent with the public.

"It's up to the facility now to come clean to the public and release the necropsy to explain to the public to explain what happened," Nichols-Young said.

[RELATED: Mourners hold candlelight vigil in Scottsdale for Bodie the dolphin]

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