The Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas announced it would temporarily close its dolphin attraction following a third dolphin death this year.
The Mirage’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat currently do not have a scheduled reopening date, a spokesperson told The Washington Post.
An 11-year-old male bottlenose dolphin named K2 died Sept. 24 of what Mirage said was a respiratory illness. An autopsy is pending.
“K2 was very vocal, energetic, loved his toys and was a joy to be around,” Mirage interim president Franz Kallao wrote in a staff memo obtained by The Post. “He always made us smile.”
Eleven is a relatively young age for bottlenose dolphins, which can live at least 40 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some women live even longer, into their sixties.
Earlier this month, a 19-year-old male dolphin named Maverick died at the Mirage after being treated for a lung infection. A 13-year-old female bottlenose dolphin, Bella, died in April of gastroenteritis.
Seven bottlenose dolphins remain in the exhibit, National Geographic reported. The attraction is also home to leopards, lions, tigers, a sloth, a cockatoo and hundreds of fish.
The business is working with veterinarians and other experts to “conduct a thorough review and inspection of both the animals and the facility,” Kallao told the Associated Press.
The attraction is advertised as a place where visitors “come face to face” with animals. Guests can pay more for experiences like feeding the dolphins, posing for photos and even painting with them. Dave Blasko, the Mirage’s director of animal care, told The Post that the dolphins are not forced to interact with people.
But some animal welfare advocates have long argued that dolphins are highly intelligent animals which have complex social structures and can swim up to 100 miles a day in the wild, should not be kept in captivity.
The Mirage, in particular, has also been the target of criticism, particularly after a series of deaths in the late 1990s and early 2000s that prompted activists at the time to dub it the “Dolphin Death Pool” , Las Vegas Dolphins attorney Shelly Rae. he told The Post.
In 2017, the facility received a “Certified Humane” designation from the non-profit organization American Humane (not to be confused with The Humane Society of the United States, which opposes dolphin captivity ). However, the certification was controversial, with The Dolphin Project, a non-profit dolphin advocacy organization, publishing an op-ed saying the designation was “nothing but wishful thinking”.