SALT RIVER PIMA-MARICOPA INDIAN COMMUNITY, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- Officials with Dolphinaris say the facility will temporarily close, starting on Friday, February 8, while an outside panel of experts reevaluate the facility, environmental factors, and all aspects of animal welfare at the facility.
In a statement released Monday, the investigative panel will include veterinarians, pathologists, water quality experts, and animal behavior specialists.
The closure, officials say, is voluntary.
The announcement on Dolphinaris' temporary closure came just days after the facility announced the death of Kai, a 22-year-old dolphin that was euthanized following deteriorating health.
Kai is the fourth dolphin to die at the facility. In September 2017, seven-year-old Bodie died from a rare muscle disease. In May 2018, 10-year-old Alia died from a bacterial infection that spread quickly, and 11-year-old Khloe died months later, in December 2018, after a six-year struggle with a chronic illness.
The facility has attracted criticism in the past. In 2016, when the facility opened, protests took place near the facility. Since Kai's death, animal rights activists once again organized protests to show their concern over the well-being of the four remaining dolphins.
"There needs to be a stop to this, dolphins do not belong in the desert," said Dolphin Free AZ supporter Vanessa Hernandez, during a protest on Saturday.
Since Kai's death, Dolphin Quest, the company that loans dolphins to Dolphinaris, has announced it will terminate its contract with the facility. Kai was reportedly one of the dolphins on loan to Dolphinaris. In Dolphinaris' statement on Tuesday, officials announced that two of the remaining dolphins that were on loan by Dolphin Quest will be transferred back to Dolphin Quest, while the other two remaining dolphins will be transferred to another licensed U.S. facility.