Mirage’s Dolphin and Big Cat Exhibits Permanently Closing

Posted on: November 22, 2022, 06:43h. 

Last updated on: November 23, 2022, 04:02h.

Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat is permanently closing. The decision to shut down the attraction and move the dolphins and big cats was announced Tuesday in a joint memo to all Mirage staff from interim Mirage President Franz Kallao and Hard Rock Las Vegas President Joe Lupo.

Ownership of the property is currently transferring from MGM Resorts to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, owner of the Hard Rock International brand, which purchased it for $1.1 billion in a deal that closed this year.

Dolphin Mirage
The residents of Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat will need to find new homes. (Image: MGM Mirage)

“Hard Rock’s leadership team has spent several months considering options and discussing the facility openly with your leadership teams at both The Mirage and MGM Resorts,” the joint memo letter read. “As Hard Rock has thought about its vision for The Mirage post-close, the team has determined that the best course of action is to wind down, and eventually, permanently close the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat.”

According to the memo, all the animals – dolphins, white tigers, white lions, and leopards – will be placed in the care of “well-trained, highly respected animal care professionals and veterinary experts,” though the specific details of those plans were not revealed.

The Secret Garden, which opened in 1990, has been closed since the death of the bottlenose dolphin K2 on Sept. 25. It was The Mirage’s third dolphin death in 2022 alone. The closure was announced as temporary, pending a review of the venue’s veterinary care, water quality, and filtration system by the San Diego-based National Marine Mammal Foundation. Now, that closure could be permanent.

“We are nearing the completion of that review but have not yet determined when the facility will reopen or in what capacity,” Tuesday’s memo stated.

Cheers from PETA

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) responded to the news with a statement from Brittany Peet, general counsel for captive animal law enforcement for the PETA foundation.

“Big cats belong in the jungle, not behind bars in a casino sideshow, and a desert is no place for a dolphin,” Peet said in the statement. “PETA is encouraging Hard Rock to usher in its new animal-free era by finding reputable new homes for the big cats and working to get the dolphins to a seaside sanctuary where they could have more natural lives in spacious habitats, far from the lights and noise of the Strip.”

Bottlenose dolphins typically live 40 to 60 years in the wild, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. However, the average survival time in captivity for all bottlenose dolphins who live for more than one year is 12 years, 9 months and 8 days.

According to The Mirage, 14 dolphins have died from a variety of causes and at a range of ages since the attraction opened in 1990. Three were at least 25 years old, and three were youngsters. Animal rights activists, however, count 16 deaths.

More Mirage Changes

The hotel is still named The Mirage, and could be for up to two more years, before it becomes the second Hard Rock resort in Las Vegas. (The first reopened as Virgin Hotels Las Vegas last year.) In addition to its animal attraction, Hard Rock International previously announced plans to end The Mirage’s popular free volcano show along the Las Vegas Strip. As part of a massive renovation, a guitar-shaped hotel tower will be built where the volcano – installed by Mirage builder Steve Wynn when he opened the resort in 1989 – now stands.

What will happen to the Cirque du Soleil-Beatles production Love is the next big question. The Mirage’s new owners have only committed to the show until the end of 2023. Love was such a prominent feature of The Mirage, photos of the Beatles upstage the resort’s logo on the building.