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Dolphinaris responds to questions after death of 11-year-old bottlenose dolphin

Posted: 4:14 PM, Dec 31, 2018
Updated: 2019-01-02 13:23:41Z
Dolphinaris Khloe

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Dolphinaris Arizona announced Monday that an 11-year-old female Atlantic bottlenose dolphin named Khloe has died.

Officials say Khloe had joined Dolphinaris in 2016 and passed away Sunday following a long chronic illness.

"Prior to her arrival at Dolphinaris, Khloe struggled with chronic illness due to a parasite called Sarcocystis, which can affect mammals, including dolphins," said Christian Schaeffer, General Manager of Dolphinaris.

Officials say Khloe's caregivers had recently noticed that her health was showing signs of decline and "took every action possible to try and save her."

An animal autopsy will be conducted and officials say Dolphinaris will share the findings with the global veterinary community in hopes of aiding in the treatment of other mammals affected by Sarcocystis.

In May 2018, a female bottlenose dolphin named Alia died at Dolphinaris from an acute bacterial infection.

Dolphinaris declined ABC15’s request for an on-camera interview but a representative did answer questions via email.

Here is that question and answer exchange with Dolphinaris Spokesperson Jennifer Smith:

Q: As Dolphinaris was aware of Khloe's "Chronic illness" dating back prior to her arrival in Scottsdale, why was she placed in an environment where she is doing tricks, working, etc if she is ill?

A: Being with people is what brought Khloe joy. Interactions were not work for her, it was a treat for her. Dolphins love to interact with people. It's part of what they look forward to every day. They create connections with their trainers and are curious to meet new guests. Khloe had a choice whether she participated in interactions with people and she only had interactions when she chose to. But, she rarely refused the opportunity to meet someone new. She, or any dolphin at Dolphinaris, have never never been refused food if they chose not to interact with people. Khloe’s condition was one that was in remission during much of her time at Dolphinaris until recently when it flared up. At times when she wasn’t feeling well, she did not interact with guests and rested. Though much of the time Khloe was energetic and eager to participate in interactions with guests.

Q: Was Khloe's condition transmittable to other dolphins or humans and if so, was she separated from either?

A: Since 2013, Khloe has struggled with chronic illness due to a parasite, called Sarcocystis, which is not transmittable to other animals or humans. So separating her was not an issue. We would never do anything to compromise her well-being.

Q: I know the website indicates these Dolphins are raised by humans, but specifically where are the Dolphinaris dolphins coming from and how many are currently at the facility?

A: The dolphins at Dolphinaris came from two licensed facilities one in California and one in Hawaii. They were are born and raised in human care.

Q: Dolphinaris says Khloe's condition had been "managed with exceptional veterinary care." Specifically, what was that?·

A: Dolphinaris Arizona’s veterinary staff has utilized progressive medicine, procedures and techniques to extend and improve Khloe’s quality of life, including a variety of medical techniques, such as x-rays, ultrasound, endoscopies, CAT scans and bloodwork.

Khloe participated in a full body CAT scan in November to enable veterinarians and radiologists to examine her brain, chest and abdomen.

In addition, the Dolphinaris medical team worked with Sarcocystis medical experts across the country, including specialists at the University of Illinois and the University of California, Davis.

Q: According to NOAA, a bottlenose dolphin has a lifespan of between 40-60 years. Yet at Dolphinaris, three dolphins have now died at ages of 7, 10, 11 in the past two years. How do you explain the frequency to which these dolphins are dying at such a young age at this facility?

A: We have had a series of unfortunate medical conditions that occur with dolphins in the wild as well as those in human care and we have done everything we can to care for these animals to the best of our ability, care which dolphins in the wild would not receive. We are deeply saddened by these events, but unfortunately not every animal or person lives to their full life expectancy in the wild or in human care.

Q: When is the necropsy on Khloe expected to be complete?

A: The necropsy already has been performed and we are waiting on the official results, which typically take 3-8 weeks to come back from the labs.

Q: How many dolphins are currently at Dolphinaris?

A: There are 5 dolphins at Dolphinaris and all are well.