4th dolphin death reported at Dolphinaris

NEAR SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- Officials with Dolphinaris say a fourth dolphin has died at the facility.

According to a statement by officials, 22-year-old Kai died at 5:40 a.m. Thursday. Officials said Kai experienced deteriorating conditions, following signs of difficulty swimming, eating and breathing. Kai first started showing signs of health decline two weeks ago, and despite responding to treatment, his health took a sudden turn for the worse Wednesday night, and a decision was made to euthanize him.

Officials with Dolphinaris say an external pathologist has been engaged to conduct a necropsy, or animal autopsy, to determine what caused Kai's health problem.

This latest death comes after three other bottlenose dolphin deaths within a span of less than two years. In September 2017, seven-year-old Bodie died. In May 2018, 10-year-old Alia died, and 11-year-old Khloe died months later, in December 2018. The deaths have sparked protests by animal rights activists.

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

"They don't belong in tanks in the middle of the Arizona desert," said Erika Maurice with Dolphin Free AZ, during a protest. "They're highly intelligent beings. It's torture, and they're being exploited for profit and greed. They don't belong in the desert."

Officials with Dolphinaris have provided details to each of the dolphin's death in the past. With Bodie, officials say he experienced a rare muscle disease, and no solution or cure with found, even after a veterinary team consulting with experts throughout the U.S. and Europe.

With Alia, officials say she displayed some unusual behaviors in the days prior to her death. Results from independent pathologists with University of Illinois laboratories determined she had an acute bacterial infection that spread quickly, resulting in death from a bloodstream infection.

With Khloe, officials said she struggled with a chronic illness that had affected her over the course of six years.

In the statement released Thursday, Dolphinaris' General Manager, Christian Schaeffer, said the facility is concerned over the loss, and has launched an investigation with external expertise to reveal this and other deaths.

According to SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, wild bottlenose dolphins have a life expectancy of 20 years or less, while a one-year-old dolphin in an Alliance of Marine Parks and Aquariums member facility is expected to live for more than 25 years. There are also dolphins at such member facilities that have lived into their 40s and 50s.

National Geographic, however, notes that the average life span in the wild for a common bottlenose dolphin is 45 to 50 years.