Visitors to the Minnesota Zoo only have a few months left to see the two dolphins there. The animals will be sent to other aquariums while the zoo’s Discovery Bay building is under renovation, and they will not be coming back.
"There are fewer and fewer institutions in the country that are exhibiting dolphins," Ehmke said. "And in discussions with our colleagues, it’s really become clear that we don’t have the opportunity right now to bring back a family group or other social group of dolphins."
The Discovery Bay building that houses the giant dolphin tank needs major repairs, Ehmke said. It’s only 15 years old, but the inside of the tank has corroded from the salt water.
State lawmakers approved a bonding bill that includes $4 million for the repairs. And Gov. Mark Dayton said the zoo’s decision to send Allie and Semo away — announced after he signed the bill on Friday — caught him off guard.
"I was not aware of that, and it’s disappointing that they would not make us aware of it on a timely basis," Dayton said.
Zoo director Ehmke said during the legislative session zoo officials told lawmakers that closing the dolphin exhibit was a possiblity. Ehmke says zoo staff are now looking for new homes for Allie, 28, and Semo, who at about 50 is likely the oldest dolphin in human care.