ST. THOMAS — Three female bottlenose dolphins have left the desert for the waters of St. Thomas.
Huf-N-Puf, 22, her daughter Coco, 5, and granddaughter Lady Ace, 4, boarded a jet bound for the Virgin Islands, accompanied by trainers and a veterinarian, after the shuttering of their previous home at the Mirage Hotel Dolphin Habitat in Las Vegas. After a seven-hour journey in specially-designed transport semi-aquatic transport boxes, the cetaceans arrived at the Coral World Dolphin Sea Sanctuary.
Coral World General Curator Lee Kellar said the dolphins’ trainers and a veterinarian from the Mirage will continue working with them in St. Thomas for the next month. One of the trainers will stay on at Coral World full-time.
“There’s a lot that these animals need to learn,” Kellar said, adding that all three were born into professional care. Living in the ocean means sharing space with other sea creatures, including Coral World’s other dolphins. “And there’s an awful lot of stuff going on that is new to them.”
The trio joins Coral World’s contingent of seven dolphins.
Coral World Ocean Park offers several opportunities for visitors to meet and interact with the dolphins housed in its Sea Sanctuary. Whether or not the three new arrivals participate in those programs, Kellar said, is up to the dolphins.
“It’s always the dolphin’s choice,” he said. “We can’t make them do anything, but we give them the opportunity to do programs and interact with people, if that’s what they want.”
According to a joint press release from Coral World and The Mirage, the hotel closed its dolphin habitat after Hard Rock bought the Mirage from MGM Resorts International. Animal welfare activists have condemned the Mirage exhibit for decades.
In 2022, three dolphins kept at the Mirage died within a span of six months. The press release stated that the relocation was a collaborative effort between the ocean park and the hotel, adding that both entities are committed to the dolphins’ care and well-being.
Kellar said it may be a while before the public gets a chance to glimpse the newcomers because they need time to learn about their new environment. Other dolphins at the sanctuary who were born into pools, he said, still don’t use all of the available habitat at Coral World.
“It’s just gonna take them some time to slowly learn that it’s a big world out there,” he said. The trio of A trio of bottlenose dolphins from Mirage Hotel Dolphin Habitat in Las Vegas, Nev., are now calling the Coral World Dolphin Sea Sanctuary home.