Dolphinaris says facility not permanently closed; cargo seen loaded onto plane at Sky Harbor

SALT RIVER PIMA-MARICOPA INDIAN COMMUNITY, Ariz. (AP/FOX 10) -- A spokesperson with Dolphinaris says the facility is not permanently closed, even though signs at the business have been taken down.

On February 15, a viewer sent a photo to FOX 10 showing crews removing the Dolphinaris sign, letter by letter. By the time the viewer took the photo, crews have already removed most of the sign, with the letters "R", "I", and "S" from "Dolphinaris" still hanging on the exterior wall. A temporary sign for one of the restaurants near the facility has since been put in place of the original Dolphinaris sign.

Officials with the aquatic facility decided to temporarily close the facility after 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.

Rental trucks were seen loading cargo at Dolphinaris late Tuesday night and on Wednesday morning, the same trucks were seen by FOX 10 cameras at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport transferring the cargo onto an airplane.

FOX 10 has reached out to Dolphinaris to confirm what was taken from the facility and loaded onto the rental trucks.

Multiple sources have told FOX 10 that the closure is permanent, but Dolphinaris spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said Monday the facility remains temporarily closed, as experts investigate potential factors in the dolphin deaths.

Smith says the signs were taken down to avoid confusion. She also said there's no target date for reopening the facility.

Animal rights advocates say putting dolphins in pools in the desert was tantamount to animal cruelty.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.