Category Archives: park updates

The Dolphin Death Pool has Returned.

‘Free the Mojave Dolphins’ is my personal passion project. I photograph, video, organize, and do whatever I can to help these animals here at the Mirage, and I have been doing so since 2013. I have held many protests and events related to this cause over the years. I have held many demonstrations on the strip in front of the Mirage casino, providing literature and brochures to the public, and educating them about the conditions of the animals. I have also had a billboard-style truck driving around the strip with an educational message displayed as well. I even brought Ric O’Barry from the Dolphin Project to lead one of these demonstrations with us, tour the Mirage facility first hand and speak to the executive director of animal care. Occasionally, other animal groups in town and I collaborate on events to educate the public about the plight of the Mojave Dolphins. We are trying to plan a protest for November 5th ‘Freedom Matters: Protest captivity at the Mirage Las Vegas!

The Mirage Dolphin Habitat is known amongst the animal rights community as the “Dolphin Death Pool” due to the high percentage of dolphin deaths that were reported in the late 90s and early 00s. I am appalled that the Mirage seems to be reverting back to these former standards of care. The nickname applies to the facility now more than ever with three deaths occurring in the last 6 months alone. The dolphins that are dying are dying at a much younger age than they should. Dolphins in the wild generally live to be 30-50 years old but the dolphins at the Mirage are dying closer to age 10-20 years. I am absolutely appalled that Mirage has lost 3 dolphins this year. It is inexcusable. What is going on in the Mirage’s backyard? Is there something in the water?

Below are just a few of the examples of sub-optimal conditions I have witnessed myself while touring the facility which leads me to believe that the habitat and its caretakers are not doing enough to care for these animals properly.

• Animal Welfare Act regulations state under 9CFR Section 3.103(b) Facilities, Outdoor, Shelter: Natural or artificial shelter which is appropriate for the species concerned, when local climatic conditions are taken into consideration, shall be provided for all marine mammals kept outdoors to afford them protection from the weather or from direct sunlight.
The shade that appears around the pools are various times of day is just simply not enough for these animals. The habitat installed “shade structures” but these were more for the guests, not the animals. Blasko himself admitted that the surrounding trees and buildings *MAY* cast shadows on the pool, depending on the time of day. (View the pool layout here)

• I have documented contaminants within the dolphin pool itself, such as chicken nuggets and a piece of chewing gum. It did not seem that the staff was making any reasonable effort to clean them up as they remained for me to document them, and I had to alert the staff to their presence in the pools. I can only imagine what contaminants the dolphins are able to ingest before the staff is able to notice. It is very easy to throw things into the pool.

• The dolphins at the Mirage were suffering from a form of dolphin pox for many years back at the beginning of the 2010s. Maverick had the worst case of it (RIP) and he became the face of my campaign. Many guests would point out the pox and the trainers would deflect the issue and say that nothing was wrong with the animals. It turned out the solution was something as simple as raising the water temperature. This, to me, proves that the Mirage is not on top of water chemistry within the facility and they should be giving the water chemistry a much greater focus now. It should NOT have taken 4 years to find out the solution, and the inspections of the facility through APHIS never noted this.

I have documented the different behavioral issues the dolphins display on the website such as gate chewing, swimming in circles, and displays of aggression. Scroll down on this page to see the evidence.

I also just learned that there is a two-toed sloth accounted for on the APHIS inspection logs. What is the Mirage doing with this animal? Given their history of caring for dolphins, especially these last few weeks, I worry the sloth is going to receive less than optimal care.

Dolphins have been suffering at the hands of this hotel since 1989. There is no place for this archaic form of entertainment in what is supposed to be the entertainment capital of the world. We should be innovating, not holding onto the past. Hard Rock needs to close down this facility once and for all.


14th dolphin dies at the Mirage! RIP Bella!

The ‘dolphin death pool’ in Las Vegas has claimed its 14th victim. Bella died at the Mirage Dolphin Habitat in the Mojave Desert on April 14th, 2022 after undergoing treatment for gastroenteritis for several weeks, according to a press release sent out to local news stations.

Bella was born on September 6th, 2008 to Huf-N-Puf and Lightning. She lived 13 years, 7 months and 8 days in captivity while dolphins in the wild live to be 40-60 years old. Bella spent 4,968 days without protection from the sun’s harsh UV rays as she sat at the surface, chewing at the gates between the three pools. She gave birth on August 16th, 2019 to her daughter Lady Aces who is still languishing within the hotel’s backyard swimming pool.

Bella’s early death is a dreadful example of the reasons we need MGM and Hard Rock to end the display of captive dolphins at the Mirage Hotel and Casino. If you would like to make a splash in this movement, then join grassroots activist organizations Free the Mojave Dolphins from the Mirage Las Vegas and CompassionWorks International on April 30th at the Mirage volcano from 11am to 12:30pm. We will be urging locals and tourists alike to place pressure on the Hard Rock to shut down the animal exhibits once and for all and move the dolphins and big cats to properly accredited sanctuaries.


Bella’s 1st Calf & 2 Transfers

It’s with an extremely heavy heart that I write this blog post.

​​The Mirage, once nicknamed the “Dolphin Death Pool in the Desert“, has bred another calf into their artificial pod. This is the 3rd calf in 3 years.

She was born on August 16th. The mother is Bella. She is just shy of her 11th birthday. She has spent her entire life under the intense heat of the Mojave sun. The calf is expected to do the same. The father is Razzle, a 30-year-old male who lives at Seaworld San Diego (originally from Marineland Florida).

The calf is already on display in the back pool which the habitat refers to as the “Birthing and Research Pool”. I am being told that interactions with the public and the remaining adults are still being held in the “Birthing and Research Pool”. My source spent a few days inside of the dolphin pool observing and said that the “Paint with a Dolphin” program was still taking place in the pool, along with the “photo ops”

Lightning and Miramar were also removed from the Mirage and sent to live at Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City, Florida. This is a bittersweet moment. On one hand, these 2 adult males will no longer be languishing under the sun in the desert. Lightning was originally living at Gulf World. I am told there is shade at this facility. The sad part is I am not sure who is going to be advocating for them from the east coast. Miramar was born in Las Vegas in 2011, so he was taken away from the only family he has ever known. These dolphins are still stuck within the confines of a concrete pool, forced to perform for the ignorant public.

The habitat in Las Vegas still has minimal shade. Structures were added to the “Birthing and Research” pool but they do not cover the entire pool. They are mainly for the interactions that take place along the edges with trainers and the public. The remaining pool surface is subject to the foliage and passing sun.

There are 10 dolphins living in Las Vegas. Duchess, Huf-N-Puf, Maverick, Osbourne, Sofi, Bella, K2, Coco, Karli, and the new little baby. Do not allow the removal of two males to fool you. The last two calves were born via artificial insemination in partnership the Georgia Aquarium and Seaworld San Diego.

Never stop speaking out on their behalf. They need you now more than ever.


Coco and the Corporate Shill

During Spring of 2017, I started to receive reports that at least one of the dolphins at the Mirage was pregnant.

 

On July 17th 2017, local news reported that Huf-N-Puf gave birth to a female dolphin calf at the Mirage. The father was Lightning. This is their third calf together. Her siblings are Bella (born 2008) and Miramar (born 2011). The name was released to the public in September 2017; “Coco”. She is being kept with Huf, Duchess, and Bella in the birthing and research pool. This is the large pool in the rear.

Back Tank “Birthing and Research Pool” April 2014

Coco was named after MGM’s employee philosophy which is “One Company, One Culture”. This is the same company that keeps her and the rest of the Mojave pod confined under extreme temperatures with absolutely no escape from the sun. The foliage around the pools provides very little shade, and only during certain times of the day. Las Vegas had nearly 60 days this summer where we reached at least 105f or higher. In the wild, dolphins have the ability to swim deep beneath the surface, protecting their skin from being sunburned. Dolphins at the Mirage spend the majority of their time lagging at the surface, chewing at the gates, and waiting for food.

Coco’s life will be no different than the rest of the animals here in Las Vegas. She will spend her days swimming around the tiny pool with artificial coral awhile tourists point and smile at how “cute and happy” she must be because they can see the rather unfortunate way her anatomy forms her mouth. Overtime she may pick up one or more stereotypical behaviors of captive dolphins; waiting at the gates, biting the gates, or beaching herself.

You can call MGM corporate at 1-(702)-891-1844 directly to tell them you will boycott until they shut down the dolphin exhibit. You can also contact the Mirage Hotel to voice your concerns at 1-(702)-791-7111.

Join us in October as we protest outside of the Mirage Hotel for ALL animals held within their backyard. October 21st 10am-12pm. Freedom Matters: Protest captivity at the Mirage Las Vegas!

 


Seaworld’s “Beetle” Dolphin Dies in Casino Swimming Pool

In a press statement from MGM, a 12-year old bottlenose dolphin named Beetle died on Oct. 27 of unknown causes. Beetle was the 13th dolphin to die at The Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage in Las Vegas. Historically, this facility has had 22 dolphins — now with a 59 percent mortality rate and an average age of death of 10-years old. Wild dolphins can live to be 50 years or more, concluding that this facility, even with up-to-date filtration systems and temperature-controlled water, restaurant-quality frozen dead fish and a full-time vet, the dolphins in Las Vegas are dying 30 years younger in their captive environment in the desert.

Beetle came to The Mirage in 2010 from SeaWorld Orlando on a long-term breeding loan. Though he never fathered any offspring, The Habitat emphasized in September they would begin breeding all the sexually-mature males. Beetle made news in Orlando for biting a child.

Beetle has been documented on multiple occasions by Free The Mojave Dolphins and Martyn Stewart logging motionless at the gates, chewing on the gates and piping and being aggressive toward other male dolphins.

Because of this behavior, the facility put a plastic kayak in front of the gate to deter Beetle from chewing. The kayak has been chewed as well.

Photo by Terran Baylor
Photo by Terran Baylor

Beetle was also used as one of the main dolphins in the “Paint with a Dolphin Program” where patrons pay to have a dolphin paint on a piece of canvas.

beetle15

Beetle was mainly kept in one of the three pools at the Mirage with minimal shade to find refuge in under the sun. Though there is a shade regulation under the Animal Welfare Act ( § 3.127 Facilities, outdoor.(a) Shelter from sunlight. When sunlight is likely to cause overheating or discomfort of the animals, sufficient shade by natural or artificial means shall be provided to allow all animals kept outdoors to protect themselves from direct sunlight.), there have been multiple APHIS inspections, pressure from the community for constructing a structure, and even a verbal commitment from MGM to begin building in Spring 2015. No such structure was ever built.

We would like to make sure Beetle is not replaced by another dolphin. We would like for all breeding to end at The Mirage and to ban any additional importing of dolphins. Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project is currently working on a dolphin sanctuary in Mexico where these dolphins have an open invitation to retire too.

You can call MGM corporate at 1-(702)-891-1844 directly to tell them you will boycott them until they shut down the dolphin exhibit. You can also contact the Dolphin Habitat to voice your concerns at 1-(702)-791-7111, 1-(702)-791-7588, 1-(702)-792-7889

Please also sign the petitions.

RIP Beetle. You are free to roam the skies now and no gate will ever keep you from freedom again.


Beetle Tweetsheets

#AskSeaworld Campaign

#AskSeaworld @SeaWorld If you care about your animals, why did you dump your “problem” dolphin out in the desert? pic.twitter.com/sQ7gvDGChY

(click here to send tweet)

Seaworld

#AskSeaworld @SeaWorld if you provide the best care, why are your animals in the desert w/o shade? #MojaveDolphins pic.twitter.com/NBbTbbaS66

(click here to send tweet)

Seaworld2

#AskSeaworld Hey @SeaWorld, how do you feel about Beetle dying @TheMirageLV at the young age of 12? #MojaveDolphins pic.twitter.com/9ahmgDyh2P

(click here to send tweet)

Seaworld3

#AskSeaworld @SeaWorld why did you send dolphins from each of your parks to pools in the desert without shade? pic.twitter.com/diOjuWT0kq

(click here to send tweet)

Seaworld4

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