NEAR SCOTTSDALE (3TV/CBS 5) -- Staff at Dolphinaris Arizona are receiving death threats after a fourth dolphin died at the facility in less than two years.
“They’ve come through different channels," spokeswoman Jen Smith said. "Phone calls, emails, social media, our chat feature through our web site. It’s deeply concerning.”
Smith says they’ve gotten law enforcement involved and have boosted security on site.
The flurry of threats come after 22-year-old dolphin Kai was euthanized Thursday morning. Dolphinaris Arizona's general manager said Kai had been sick for two weeks. When his condition did not improve, the decision was made to "humanely euthanize" him.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which regulates the attraction, says they’re aware of the dolphin’s death, and are still working on next steps.
But activists say there’s only one thing to do -- shut Dolphinaris down.
“The problem is that dolphins don’t belong in the desert, let alone a concrete pool by the busy 101 Freeway where it cuts off all their communication skills,” said Jeanette McCourt, an activist with the group Dolphin Free AZ.
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Dolphin Free AZ is planning a protest outside Dolphinaris on Saturday. They say more than 100 people are expected to attend.
Meanwhile, Arizone State University marine researcher Charles Rolsky acknowledges that Dolphinaris has a tough task keeping the animals alive in the desert.
“It’s definitely a difficult acclimation process,” Rolsky said. “I’m sure their intent is to educate the public, and maybe by having public interact with dolphins so closely it would make them maybe invest more in them as a species.”
Meanwhile, Smith says staff at the facility and the protesters probably share many of the same views.
“We really admire the protesters and respect the passion and love they have for animals,” Smith said. “And our team at Dolphinaris loves animals, too.”
Kai is the fourth dolphin to have died at Dolphinaris in the past 18 months.
Jan. 31, 2019 -- Kai
Dec. 30, 2018 -- Khloe
May 22, 2018 --Alia
Sept. 23, 2017 -- Bodie
[SLIDESHOW: The dolphins]
Dolphinaris, which is part of the OdySea In The Desert complex on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community near Scottsdale, opened in October 2016.
Dolphin Quest released a statement Saturday, where they announced they are terminating their contract with Dolphinaris:
The Dolphin Quest team is heartbroken over the loss of our beloved Kai, a 22-year-old male dolphin, who died Thursday while in the care of Dolphinaris Arizona. The exact cause of death is unknown at this time pending the results of a post-mortem analysis.
Kai was on loan to Dolphinaris, located in Scottsdale, AZ, where he participated in educational and experiential learning programs for the public. As of yesterday, Dolphin Quest has formally terminated its animal loan agreement with Dolphinaris, and it is evaluating next steps for the remaining two Dolphin Quest animals.
“The safety and health of our animals is our top priority”, says Dr. Rae Stone, Co-founder of Dolphin Quest. “In spite of their best efforts, the animal health concerns have not been resolved at Dolphinaris. We have a senior marine mammal specialist from Dolphin Quest onsite at Dolphinaris who knows our remaining dolphins well and is closely monitoring them. They are bright, alert and in good condition at this time. We have contacted USDA and are working with them as we move forward.”
While we grieve for Kai and the other animal losses at Dolphinaris, we are focused now on the remaining dolphins and the best options for them.