US zoo’s dolphins exhibit to end

The Minnesota Zoo’s popular dolphin program will end this fall.

The facility’s two remaining dolphins will not return after repairs are made to their pool, officials said.

Dolphins, which have been exhibited at the zoo since it opened in 1978, are difficult to acquire, and the zoo would need at least one more animal to ensure proper socialization for the marine mammals, Director Lee Ehmke said Monday, May 14.

“It’s a difficult decision, but it doesn’t seem to be possible to create the kind of social situation we would need to have,” Ehmke said.

The Minnesota Zoo recently received $4 million in the state Legislature’s bonding bill to repair the aging tank.

Allie and Semo will be sent to other accredited facilities sometime this fall, and repairs to the tank will take place after that.

The zoo is uncertain what fish or marine animals would be exhibited in the pool after repairs, which could take nine to 18 months, are completed, Ehmke said. Seals or sea lions are a possibility, he said, as the tank is housed in an auditorium that can accommodate shows.

The zoo requested $30 million from the Legislature this year for asset preservation and $5 million for its master plan. Ehmke said it’s unlikely the $4 million will even cover all the necessary repairs to the dolphin tank.

“The structural integrity of the pools and the saltwater has affected the structure of the building,” Ehmke said. “It’s not in imminent danger of collapse, but it’s certainly something we need to address.”

Ehmke said that at some point, the zoo would have lost its license to house marine animals in Discovery Bay had repairs been delayed.

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