Sunday, July 01, 2007

Cause of sudden dolphin's death is yet to be determined

Zoo veterinarians are trying to figure out what caused the sudden death of a dolphin at the Indianapolis Zoo.

The dolphin named Phoenix was one of the first group of dolphins to arrive at the new Indianapolis Zoo when it opened in 1988. Her unexpected death has saddened the staff and the other dolphins.
But the show must go on and it did Monday at the Marsh Dolphin Theater even without one of their stars.

"They definitely know something's missing. They do. She made a lot of different sounds, vocalizations and typically they have a signature whistle. Right now that's lacking," said Jodie Baker, Curator of Marine Mammals at the Indianapolis Zoo.

During her last television appearance with 24-Hour News 8's Dick Wolfsie in May, Phoenix was showing off for the camera.

"She was a character, she had her own personality, very interesting in appearance, very large eyes. She was always very curious, enjoyed playing. She was a lot of fun," Baker said.

The trainers said Phoenix had been acting completely fine. She even performed in an earlier show, but it was at a later performance where the other dolphins started acting a little strange and that's when they found her in the bottom of the performance pool.

"We had just completed a quarterly physical exam in May and appeared healthy at that time," senior zoo veterinarian Dr. Jeff Proudfoot said.

Preliminary findings show wet, congested lungs but nothing else out of the ordinary. Samples have been sent out to pathologists to solve the mystery.

Trainers believe Phoenix was about 23 or 24 years old. The average life span of a dolphin in captivity is 24 years.

Veterinarians say they've never experienced an unexpected death of a dolphin since the exhibit opened in 1988.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"