SALT RIVER PIMA INDIAN COMMUNITY, AZ — Dolphinaris Arizona has started laying off employees as the facility prepares to close at the end of the day Friday.
The company has said the closure will be temporary while an outside team of experts evaluates all aspects of the operation after a fourth dolphin died at the facility on January 31. The company said through a spokesperson there was no timeline for when visitors would be allowed to return as any reopening date would depend on the findings of the review.
Some employees would remain during the inspection to assist and continue caring for the dolphins. All remaining dolphins will be transferred out of Dolphinaris' care, including the return of two dolphins to Dolphin Quest--a move that is expected to be permanent. The other two remaining dolphins will reportedly be transferred to another, unspecified, facility while Dolphinaris is evaluated.
- Bodie: The male bottlenose dolphin died on Sept. 23, 2017, from a "rare muscle disease," the facility said.
- Alia: The female bottlenose dolphin died on May 22, 2017, from an "acute bacterial infection" that "spread quickly through her body," the facility said.
- Khloe: The female bottlenose dolphin died on Dec. 31, 2018, from "chronic illness due to a parasite called Sarcocystis," the facility said.
- Kai: The male bottlenose dolphin was euthanized on Jan. 31, 2019, after he showed signs of "difficulty swimming, eating and breathing" and his health continued to decline, the facility said. A necropsy (an animal autopsy) is pending, and the results have not been released.
A spokesperson did not immediately return an email with further questions about the fired workers, such as whether they would have priority in rehiring should Dolphinaris reopen.
Since opening in October 2016, Dolphinaris has been inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture four times. None of those visits found any critical violations.
Those who had reservations with Dolphinaris for after the facility closes Friday night will be refunded, the company has said.