Mirage Las Vegas Closes Habitat After 3rd Dolphin Death This Year

Posted on: September 30, 2022, 11:59h. 

Last updated on: October 5, 2022, 06:29h.

Following its third dolphin death this year — its second in September alone — The Mirage hotel and casino has closed Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat until further notice. No reopening date has been set.

Mirage dolphin
K2 is one of three bottlenose dolphins who died this year at the Mirage at under 20 years old. In the wild, bottlenoses live between 40 and 50 years. (Image: independent.co.uk)

According to The Mirage, the dolphin — an 11-year-old bottlenose named K2 — died of a suspected respiratory illness last Saturday. The same suspected cause of death was given earlier this month for a 19-year-old bottlenose named Maverick. However, final necropsy results have not been received for either animal. In April, a 13-year-old bottleneck named Bella succumbed to gastroenteritis.

K2 was very vocal, energetic, loved his toys and was a joy to be around,” interim Mirage president Franz Kallao wrote in a memo to his staff. “He always made us smile.” Kallao added that the closure would help “focus our efforts on ensuring that we have the safest possible environment and the best care possible for our dolphins and to give our team the time they need to process and grieve.”

During the closure, a Mirage representative told the Washington Post, the San Diego-based National Marine Mammal Foundation will examine the venue’s veterinary care, water quality, and filtration system. On April 27, the attraction passed a routine inspection by the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, according to the Post report.

The wild animal attraction – which also houses several big cats – was last closed in March 2020 because of the pandemic shutdown.

Not Much of a Habitat

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. Activists, however, count 16 deaths.

According to the Mirage’s website, the attraction opened with “a focus on scientific research, education, and conservation outreach.” Not according to Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the 501 (c)(3) nonprofit animal activist group, Animal Welfare Institute.

“There are no publications that I’m aware of using the dolphins at The Mirage that are valuable to conservation of wildlife goals,” she told The Nevada Current in April, adding that the only Mirage research is in captive husbandry. “In other words, how can we keep these animals alive longer and breeding better?”

Hard Questions for Hard Rock 

Hard Rock International, the Florida-based company that purchased The Mirage from MGM Resorts International for $1.075 billion last year, plans to rebrand the resort, including demolishing the entire front of the property. The fate of the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat has not been announced, though neither is expected to survive the rebranding.

The fact that Hard Rock apparently hasn’t given it much thought, or at least not to the point where they’re willing to say something to the media, isn’t promising,” Rose told the Current. Referring to the popular documentary about a killer whale held captive by San Diego’s SeaWorld, she explained: “This is the post-Blackfish world we’re living in, and if they’re unaware that the zeitgeist has shifted, that’s not being very savvy, business-wise.”

Rose said she thought the Hard Rock should look into transferring the dolphins to a sea-pen sanctuary instead of another zoo. “If they don’t think about this more carefully, they’re going to end up looking bad when in fact, they really have almost nothing to do with this issue,” she said.