3rd dolphin death at Dolphinaris puts controversy over the attraction back in the spotlight

NEAR SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- There is more controversy for the embattled Dolphinaris attraction, located near Scottsdale, as another dolphin died this week.

Sunday's death of Khloe, an 11-year-old bottlenose dolphin, is the 3rd in 16 months. In 2017, a dolphin named Bodie died, and nine months later, Alia quickly deteriorated and died. In the case of Khloe, the dolphin was reportedly sick for nearly six years, but her death puts frustration over the controversial attraction back in the spotlight.

There were thousands of petition signatures that never wanted Dolphinaris to break ground in the first place, and the deaths were what they feared. On Tuesday, protesters demanded answers.

"If she was sick, why was she here?" said Erika Maurice with Dolphin Free AZ.

"We want this place to shut down," said animal activist Jeanette McCourt.

Khloe's death adds to the concern, with a third different cause of death in Scottsdale, and one who had been sick for several years.

"Whoever they bought these dolphins from or leased them from, why would they bring a sick dolphin here to perform tricks for profit," said McCourt. "Why would they do that?"

Opponents of the attraction want to know the heath status of the five remaining dolphins inside the facility, and they want them out of the desert.

"They don't belong in tanks in the middle of the Arizona desert," said Maurice. "They're highly intelligent beings. It's torture, and they're being exploited for profit and greed. They don't belong in the desert."

"I think it's awful, and I think we need to stand up for them," said McCourt. "They don't have a voice, unfortunately, without us here."

Experts say bottlenose dolphins have a life expectancy of 40 years. The three that died were between the ages of seven and 11.

According to a statement released Sunday, officials with Dolphinaris pointed to the fact that the disease that killed Khloe is not yet understood by veterinarians. Officials did not respond to FOX 10's request for comment on Tuesday.