‘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.