No location has been selected but it will be in a warmer climate, possibly in the Florida Keys or the Caribbean. The National Aquarium has formed a site selection team whose number one priority is to ensure the health and welfare of the dolphins. The location will be chosen based on a list of criteria, including:
- Ability to provide lifetime customized care for each dolphin
- Outdoor location with natural sea water, with more space and depth than current facility
- Tropical or sub-tropical climate
- Natural stimulus for the dolphins, such as fish and aquatic plants
“As we look at the future of the dolphins in our care, we are working very hard to provide them the best possible place to live out their years,” said Tom Robinson, National Aquarium board chair.
The institution and its board of directors began exploring new ways to care for the dolphins five years ago. Numerous options were weighed, ranging from rebuilding the existing 25-year-old Marine Mammal Pavilion in a more naturalistic style to moving the dolphins to other accredited facilities. After careful consideration, the decision was made to create a protected, year-round, seaside refuge with aquarium staff continuing to care for and interact with the dolphins. The work effort defines the sanctuary not just as a place, but also a set of corresponding practices and principles.
“We’ve evaluated this for five years and have decided that this is the right decision for the dolphins, and, thus, for our organization,” said aquarium board member Colleen Dilenschneider, who also served on a special board committee that assessed this project. “We are excited to introduce this new option along a spectrum of human care for dolphins.”
“This is a special time in history concerning evolving attitudes about treating all forms of life with dignity and respect—other humans very much included,” said Sylvia Earle, marine biologist, explorer and author. “The idea of providing sanctuaries for elephants, chimpanzees, big cats—and now dolphins—is a sign of a maturing ethic of caring unthinkable in past millennia, centuries and even decades.”
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