Dolphins leave the Minnesota Zoo

Chloe Kennedy, Community News Editor

The Minnesota Zoo’s two dolphins, Allie and Semo, have drawn people of the Twin Cities to Discovery Bay to see the dolphin shows and become mesmerized by the playful pair for fifteen years. But this decade-and-a-half legacy ended on September 9 when the dolphins left, leaving their tank empty.

The dolphins left the zoo because of major repairs that need to be done to their tank in Discovery Bay. “The State of Minnesota has committed funds through the bonding bill to undertake critical infrastructure repairs made necessary by years of salt water damage. We must do this work now, as the building’s structural integrity and our license to operate the facility would be threatened by waiting. This requires the pools to be emptied, and will involve months of disruptive construction,” zoo Director Lee Ehmke said in a press release.

After the repairs are finished the dolphins will not be returning to the Minnesota Zoo but will stay in the same place that they lived during the tank repairs. “The current situation of just the two of them living together is not an acceptable social situation,” Ehmke said in the press release. “Moreover, Semo is the oldest male dolphin in human care, now approaching his 50th birthday, and we want to minimize the frequency of transporting him from place to place.”

The future of the now empty Discovery Bay remains uncertain. “For the next year, the tank will be empty as repairs are made. After that, there will likely be a temporary exhibit of rays and fish until a larger exhibit can be funded and built,” said Kelly Lessard, head of public relations at the Minnesota Zoo in the press release.

The zoo tried to get a new pod of dolphins for the tank but none are available right now. “Dolphins typically live in social groups, and the Minnesota Zoo would need several dolphins to create this type of setting. There are not enough dolphins available from other institutions to create a new, cohesive social group,” said Ehmke in the press release.

The zoo has yet to reveal where Allie and Semo’s new home will be. “It is standard protocol that the transportation of dolphins and many other marine mammals is not publicized for the health and safety of the animals. Once Semo and Allie have made the move, the Minnesota Zoo will provide details and status updates on how they are doing,” Lessard said in the press release.

The sadness felt by the public is echoed by the zoo’s director. “We are sad to see Semo and Allie depart, but know that this is what is best for them. We also regret that dolphins––which have been an integral part of the zoo experience since 1978––are simply not available to the zoo at this time,” Ehmke said.