Thursday, December 07, 2006

Third dolphin dies in Minnesota zoo

Another dolphin has died at the Minnesota Zoo, the third this year.

Zoo staff on Friday euthanized the 14-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin named Ayla. They said she had stopped eating and no longer responded to medication after a lifelong battle with severe scoliosis.

"It's been a sad and somber day," said Kevin Willis, director of biological programs. "Although there are plenty of tears all around, people did know this day was coming."

Ayla, whose condition left her with a crooked spine, nevertheless had a playful nature and distinct personality that made her popular with zoo visitors, staff said. She had been sick many times in the past, but her last bout was by far the most serious, they said.

Willis said Ayla lived quite a bit longer than other dolphins with similar medical conditions.

With Ayla's death only three dolphin remain in the zoo's Discovery Bay exhibit. Dolphin matriarch Rio died last March, six weeks after her 7-month-old calf, Harley, died during a training exercise when he fractured his skull.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"