Contaminants in the Dolphin Death Pool

Contaminants in the Dolphin Death Pool

We were horrified at what we witnessed inside the dolphin death pools at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas in February: chewing gum and a chicken nugget.

Gum in the Mirage pool, Feb 2015.
Gum in the Mirage pool, Feb 2015.

I was photographing Beetle biting at the gate (like he usually is every time I see him now) when a small child who was talking to the trainer stationed near where the main and center pools meet exclaimed “There’s chewing gum in the pool!”. I looked down.. and he wasn’t kidding. Some tourist had spit their gum right into the pool. I photographed it and moved back. The trainer did not seem to notice. She continued her conversation with the child who did not mention it again.

Chicken nugget in the Mirage pool, Feb 2015.
Chicken nugget in the Mirage pool, Feb 2015.

I moved closer to the bend of the main pool near the snack shop, watching for reactions from the crowd and educators. I should of been looking in the pool. The educators should of been looking in the pool. Another guest walks by and exclaims “Is that a chicken nugget?” My eyes instantly dart down. There it was. A half eaten chicken nugget.

At this point, I could not sit back and silently collect information. I had to alert the educators to the contaminants in the pool.

Situations like these could turn deadly for the dolphins who are trapped in a hotel swimming pool in the Mojave desert.

A 5 year old dolphin named Ying-Ying swallowed steel wool, causing gastric mucosal hemorrhage.

Nami in her cove in Taiji, Japan.
Nami in her cove in Taiji, Japan.

Nami was the name of an orca on display at the Taiji Whale Museum in Japan. Over the course of her life in captivity, she swallowed over 154 pounds of stones. The biggest stone was nearly 7 inches and weighed 4.5 pounds.

Miami Seaquarium had a dolphin named Poncho in the 1980s. He died after eating 2 deflated footballs, 31 coins, 21 stones, 2 screws, 1 training whistle, 1 ten penny nail, 1 metal tag, 1 piece of wire, 1 metal staple and several other unidentifiable objects.

Jim Horton, a marine park employee for 16 years, went on the record to talk about dolphins at Seaworld being poisoned to death from eating coins…

Jim Horton: People were throwing coins in the pools all the time. Idiots. We had one young one year old [dolphin] that turned white. And we thought it was some kind of genetic mutation. The animal died during the day. So we pulled him out and put him on a cart, spraying him with water and rubbing him down so it looked like he was still alive while we were going through park. What we found out was that the white dolphin had a stomach full of coins and rings and jewelry. Everything was perfectly shiny except the pennies. They were the only things that were dissolving.

After 1982, I think, they started making pennies out of zinc and coating them in copper. So it was zinc poisoning. The zinc killed the dolphin. We had another dolphin in there, a young calf, that ate four coffee cans of coins and jewelry. It took six months to get all the coins out of her stomach…..The animal’s stomach was completely full of coins. And sharp, pointy stuff, like name tags or brooches. Baby pacifiers were big. There would be a wad of baby pacifiers and a bunch of paint chips from the pool, and stuff like that blocking the intestine.

Keto having an endoscopy performed on him.
Keto having an endoscopy performed on him.

In 2006, Keto, Skyla and Kohana underwent endoscopies to examine their stomach after eating paint chips from the pool. An endoscopy requires trainers to restrain the animal, insert a bit into their mouth, and wire a camera down into their gastrointestinal tract to look for blockages. See a short video here.

Winnie was a 26 year old orca at Seaworld San Antonio in Texas who died after eating tiles, coins, nuts, bolts and other objects making up a 12 pound blockage.

Mirage does what every marine park does- sells their beverages without bottle tops and other small items so you are unable to throw them into the pool, but they do not restrict you on bringing in your own food and objects. Parents are often guilty of allowing their children to eat in public places and play with toys in an attempt to keep them calm and civil. Children are also careless and do not understand consequences. They can and will throw things into dolphin pools.

A child sits with her legs in the dolphin pool at the Mirage
A child sits with her legs in the dolphin pool at the Mirage

I’m extremely concerned about the low pool walls in Las Vegas. Tourists are often highly intoxicated in this town, and ready to try the first thing that pops into their head. In 2012, students visiting while on break from studying law at UC Berkeley chased one of the exotic birds on display at the Flamingo hotel into the pushes and beheaded it.

Foreign object contamination is a “normal thing” for captive dolphins, and one of the strong arguments one can make against exploiting these creatures in pools.

This time it was a chicken nugget and chewing gum, but tomorrow it could be anything. Please do not visit any captive dolphin facility and persuade your family and friends to do the same. Dolphins are dying to entertain you.


#OccupyMirageVolcano tweetsheet

On Saturday January 17th, Las Vegas animal rights activists will descend upon the Las Vegas strip to occupy the space in front of the exploding Mirage volcano. This is a very popular photo spot for the tourists. Every night starting at 5pm, the volcano erupts on the hour and half hour. During our two hour protest, the volcano will erupt with fire and loud noise 5 times. Tourists will be fixated on our protest spot trying to catch a glimpse of the volcano. In the process, they will forced to read our messages. This was proven to be an effective protest method in January. Our main goal is to cover as much space along the volcano as possible. Spread out!

For our dolphin friends who do not live close enough to travel to our protests, we ask that you spend the two hours (or whatever time you can allocate, whenever) tweeting to the Mirage Hotel and Casino. We have made up a tweet sheet, but as always, you can send your own messages. Feel free to grab images from our social media accounts. Stay polite and factual.

  • Las Vegas Protest: #OccupyMirageVolcano @TheMirageLV 1/17 5-7pm. Sister event 2 #MiracleMarch4Lolita. #MOJAVEDOLPHINS pic.twitter.com/FjNkaqrefQ (Tweet This!)

     

  • #MojaveDolphins @TheMirageLV suffer w/ #poxvirus aka #dolphinpox. #OccupyMirageVolcano for Cetacean Rights. pic.twitter.com/e4PAbOJcYC (Tweet This!)

     

  • #MojaveDolphins will #OccupyMirageVolcano until @TheMirageLV provides shade for dolphins in intense 110F+ summers. pic.twitter.com/tn41GcbOol (Tweet This!)

     

  • Nobody wants to support business with sick #MojaveDolphins on display for profit, @TheMirageLV. #OccupyMirageVolcano pic.twitter.com/S9SHYADg7X (Tweet This!)

     

  • After 24 yrs, it’s time for @TheMirageLV to reinvent themselves without live animals. #OccupyMirageVolcano. pic.twitter.com/AYq3LOfQbQ (Tweet This!)

     

  • Not 2 late 4 @TheMirageLV 2 Be Rehab/Release Facility! @RichardOBarry #MojaveDolphins #OccupyMirageVolcano pic.twitter.com/l9fRvtJPHi (Tweet This!)

     

  • It is unethical to be breeding #mojavedolphins in the middle of the harsh desert, @TheMirageLV #OccupyMirageVolcano pic.twitter.com/H1aXchye6q (Tweet This!)

     

  • Myself & Everyone I know will be boycotting @TheMirageLV until they cease the breeding program & provide shade. #OccupyMirageVolcano (Tweet This!)

     

  • #MojaveDolphins are forced to swim in small repetitive circles @TheMirageLV. This is torture. #OccupyMirageVolcano pic.twitter.com/kP8VuT2tpl (Tweet This!)

     

  • Don’t become captivated by #MojaveDolphins @TheMirageLV. There is no beauty in stolen freedom. #OccupyMirageVolcano pic.twitter.com/YQKozOJw76 (Tweet This!)

     

  • Not stopping battle @RichardOBarry started 24 years ago. We’ll #OccupyMirageVolcano for cetacean rights. @TheMirageLV pic.twitter.com/NjIdcX3ULT (Tweet This!)

     

  • Kids are our future, and they know right from wrong. You should listen to them, @TheMirageLV. #OccupyMirageVolcano pic.twitter.com/gw5YNsc0os (Tweet This!)

     

  • We stand strong outside @TheMirageLV, #OccupyMirageVolcano. #MojaveDolphins are being used as slaves. Do not support. pic.twitter.com/u51FtMTfKy (Tweet This!)

     

  • The company @MGMResortsIntl refuses to provide shade for #MojaveDolphins @TheMirageLV #OccupyMirageVolcano. Boycott. pic.twitter.com/C1DxMynWcw (Tweet This!)

     

  • Why can’t @MGMResortsIntl afford for @TheMirageLV to fix the peeling paint in #DolphinDeathPool? #OccupyMirageVolcano pic.twitter.com/JgOOXECMeg (Tweet This!)

     

  • Why does @MGMResortsIntl provide misters for ppl @TheMirageLV but no shade 4 WORKING animals? #OccupyMirageVolcano pic.twitter.com/5vyGjgNXPN (Tweet This!)

     

  • The @MGMResortsIntl allows @TheMirageLV to house incompatible dolphins for profit. #OccupyMirageVolcano. 🙁 dislike pic.twitter.com/118SGqb3FD (Tweet This!)
  • Protesters outside @MGMResortsIntl @TheMirageLV in Las Vegas on the strip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWV6RheAFUE #OccupyMirageVolcano #MojaveDolphins (Tweet This!)
  • #CallToAction: No More #MojaveDolphins Swimming in Las Vegas. http://chn.ge/1lturWj 80,000 Voices & Counting! (Tweet This!
  • #CallToAction: Say NO to Yoga @TheMirageLV with #MojaveDolphins http://chn.ge/1xAHcKY Yoga=NonHarming&Compassion! pic.twitter.com/eIs7YDEA8N (Tweet This!) 

     

  • #CallToAction: @ClarkCountySch Stop Sending Kids to @TheMirageLV Habitat http://chn.ge/1lYUEDe #MojaveDolphins pic.twitter.com/vSsbvSEmdZ (Tweet This!)

     

  • #CallToAction: @USDA_APHIS Investigate @TheMirageLV & Enforce AWA 3.103(b) http://chn.ge/1qIRkMB @FinsandFluke pic.twitter.com/xVugGGATtV (Tweet This!) 

     

  • #CallToAction: @MGMResortsIntl Don’t Open #StingrayCove @TheMirageLV! http://chn.ge/1lYVqjL #MojaveDolphins pic.twitter.com/7VJFLZKNjc (Tweet This!)

     

  • #Call To Action: @MGMResortsINTL Retire #MojaveDolphins To Ocean Sanctuary! @TheMirageLV pic.twitter.com/wTObT7mQrg http://chn.ge/1vLqzHn (Tweet This!) 

     

  • #CallToAction: #MojaveDolphins Petition List! Lend Your Voice Against @TheMirageLV http://bit.ly/1lYVYGn pic.twitter.com/x9ZVi0zVwn (Tweet This!)

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