Jan 21, 2011
Since the opening of Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage Casino-Hotel in Las Vegas in 1990, 12 out of 18 dolphins have died under their care – an estimated 70% mortality rate (see footnote). At least three animals were reportedly stillborn or died shortly after birth; others succumbed to illnesses such as respiratory infections and stomach tears.
So, in 2009, when The Mirage filed a application with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to import two dolphins from Dolphin Quest Bermuda for their breeding program, WSPA and Born Free USA took action. The two groups immediately filed a joint complaint requesting that The Mirage’s permit request be denied based on their dismal animal care record and transport concerns, among other issues. Despite strong opposition, NMFS granted the permit in August 2009.
Additionally, in the past two years, The Mirage has added three male dolphins to its captive facility on long-term loan from Sea World as part of their breeding program. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, permits are not required for animals transferred between domestic facilities – only 15 days notice should be provided to NMFS before the transfer takes place. These additional animals indicate that the Mirage still intends to increase the number of dolphins held at their facility, only this time through domestic transfer and breeding.
Fortunately for the two Bermuda dolphins, The Mirage never actually imported them; instead, they were sent to a sister facility, Dolphin Quest Hawaii in March 2010. However, the male dolphins on loan from Sea World still remain at The Mirage’s captive facility.
Concerned individuals are advocating for all The Mirage dolphins’ rehabilitation and release through a petition on Change.org. So far, more than 60,000 people have taken action by sending e-mails to The Mirage, requesting that it discontinue its dolphin program. With this dedicated animal advocate effort, there is still hope for The Mirage Casino-Hotel’s captive dolphins.
To read more about the scientific and ethical arguments against keeping marine mammals in captivity, see the report The Case Against Marine Mammals in Captivity, co-produced by WSPA and HSUS in 2009.
Footnote: The Las Vegas Sun and other media report an additional 2 deaths that are not listed in the government records available to WSPA. Mortality rate information is based on 2010 Marine Mammal Inventory Report Summaries provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service and it excludes the 3 dolphins transferred to the facility in 2010.