Miami Seaquarium lease transfer delayed amid USDA investigation

It might seem like all the splashes and smiles at the Miami Seaquarium, but conditions in the more than half a century of marine park on Virginia Key would be dire enough that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced. last month he was stepping in to conduct an investigation amid a spate of animal deaths and failing park infrastructure.

Last August, Parques Reunidos, AKA Palace Entertainment, based in Madrid, reportedly sold the Miami Seaquarium to a Mexican company called the Dolphin Company. But amid the ongoing federal investigation, Miami-Dade County is delaying the transfer of the park’s lease until critical issues are resolved.

“How many more animals have to die before the Miami Seaquarium stops?” PETA vice president Jared Goodman said in a statement. “This abusement park continues to shamelessly push mismatched animals into the Lolita Killer Whale Reservoir, which apparently led to the death of Catalina the Dolphin. PETA welcomes the USDA’s investigation, but warns the animals at the Miami Seaquarium will continue to suffer and die until the owners of this ruthless mining operation finally release them to seaside sanctuaries. ”

From the death of Coral the harbor seal to Catalina the Pacific white-sided dolphin, here are six finds that have ravaged the Miami Seaquarium over the years.

Click to enlarge

Lolita was brought to the Miami Seaquarium in 1970.

Small obsolete enclosures

Let’s start with the most reported Miami Seaquarium scandal over the years: Killer Whale Lolita, aka Tokitae, is about 6 meters long and has lived in a “whale bowl” that has been too small for her size for about 50 years. It would be the smallest and oldest enclosure of its kind for an orca, a creature that regularly swims up to 160 km in a single day in the wild. A USDA audit previously found that the 80-foot-by-35-foot tank may not meet the “minimum horizontal dimension” for such an animal, as stated in federal animal welfare law. Animal rights activists are hopeful that Lolita will eventually be transferred to a larger, more appropriate tank for her size or released to a protected sanctuary. PETA is in an ongoing lawsuit against the Seaquarium to free Lolita.

USDA inspectors found the enclosures housing other marine animals were in poor condition, especially “several pools and surrounding structures.” The current state of swimming pools allows animals to consume paint chips when they dislodge from the surface. A trainer reported that dolphins brought in paint chips during the exercises. According to the USDA, fleas present a “health hazard” to animals if ingested.

Beyond the painting, the sea lion’s habitat exhibited “rust spots on the dry staging area and near their pool drains.” Rusted areas cannot be properly sanitized and, therefore, can make animals sick.

Click to enlarge Bottlenose dolphin - PHOTO BY HEATHER PAUL VIA FLICKR

A series of ‘trauma-related’ deaths

Between March 2019 and April 2020, five bottlenose dolphins and a baby California sea lion died at the Miami Seaquarium: Echo, 24, died of acute neck trauma in an incident that Seaquarium staff did not would not have witnessed, 18-year-old Abaco probably drowned after becoming entangled in a fence that separated two swimming pools, and Indigo, 25, died of a muscle injury and hemorrhage, which, according to the Seaquarium, was probably caused by another dolphin. The sea lion died of a head trauma. The other two dolphin deaths were found to be due to causes unrelated to trauma.

“It’s not normal to have so many trauma-related deaths in such a short period of time,” said Melanie Johnson, PETA’s Animals in Entertainment campaign manager. New times Last September.

Click to enlarge Catalina was a Pacific white-sided dolphin, the species pictured in this photo taken at the Vancouver Aquarium.  - PHOTO BY HERBERT YU VIA FLICKR

Catalina was a Pacific white-sided dolphin, the species pictured in this photo taken at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Death of Lolita’s teammate, Catalina

Orcas are highly social creatures. In the 1970s, Lolita shared an enclosure with another killer whale named Hugo. However, since Hugo’s death in 1980, amid a dwindling supply of killer whales in the oceanarium market, Lolita has lived in the company of Pacific white-sided dolphins.

While so-called Southern Resident Killer Whales like Lolita are strict pescatarians, they can still injure other marine mammals. This has always been the case at the Miami Seaquarium, as Lolita is said to have occasionally inflicted blows on her little tank mates. This behavior is said to have caused the death in December 2021 of Catalina, a 31-year-old Pacific white-sided dolphin who lived with Lolita. According to reports, Catalina died of trauma suffered after a moment of “assault” by the orca.

Animal rights activists accuse the Miami Seaquarium of forcing Lolita to share the cramped enclosure with another much smaller creature.

Click to enlarge Rotting fish - PHOTO BY LASZLO ILYES VIA FLICKR

Feed the spoiled fish

Just as you wouldn’t want to feed your dog or cat spoiled pet food that could make them sick, you wouldn’t want to feed a rotting orca fish. Still, USDA officials found that the performing mammals at the Miami Seaquarium, including Lolita, were being fed rotting fish, causing intestinal issues that needed to be treated with antibiotics.

Lolita’s meal rations were also reduced, which would have made the orca more restless than usual. She wasn’t the only animal that was hungry. According to reports, other animals have seen their food portions cut in half. Some park residents even suffered from malnutrition, including a manatee in rehabilitation who died of emaciation.

Click to enlarge Seals at the Miami Seaquarium - PHOTO BY LEONARDO DASILVA VIA FLICKR

Seals at the Miami Seaquarium

Poor water quality

Among the USDA’s latest concerns is the fact that several of the Seaquarium’s tanks are literally green from the mud. The reason? Bad water flow. The problem has led to a surge in bacterial and algal growth, which is not only an eyesore, but a legitimate concern for the animals at the facility. Among the last animals to die in the marine park in the past year was the coral, a harbor seal that died of a “chronic infection”, possibly caused in part by poorly maintained man-made habitats.

Click to enlarge Lolita, in particular, was found to have performed head jumps with an injured jaw.  - PHOTO BY LEONARDO DASILVA VIA FLICKR

Lolita, in particular, was found to have performed head jumps with an injured jaw.

Play against the vet’s opinion

In the September USDA inspection report, it was found that Miami Seaquarium staff in some cases ignored the vet’s opinion and worked with animals who were recommended to rest and recover after a injury. Lolita, in particular, was found to have performed head jumps with an injured jaw.

Lolita and “a number of bottlenose dolphins” also have eye lesions, which are believed to be the result of performing under intense sun without sufficient shade.


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