Jeers to the Mirage hotel and casino in Las Vegas, which continues to exploit bottlenose dolphins, white tigers, white lions and leopards in its Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat.

The so-called “attraction” is temporarily closed after an 11-year-old bottlenose dolphin died on Oct. 1, the venue’s third dolphin death since April. During the closure, the company said independent investigators, such as the San Diego-based National Marine Mammal Foundation, will examine the venue’s services and operations, including its veterinary care, water quality and filtration system.

The sickening irony is that the casino’s promotional video of the exhibit says: “Some come to Vegas to escape life, we invite you to discover it. Learn, play, live and dream with us in the only experience of its kind on the Vegas strip.”

What about the dolphins right to learn, play, live and dream in the wild, and not on display in a desert tourist trap?

The sophisticated cognitive and emotional capacities of dolphins are well documented, and Friends of Animals has been railing against keeping cetaceans in captivity for decades. Most recently we contested the May 2021 transfer of five belugas from Marineland in Canada to Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, where FoA is headquartered.

Two of the belugas have already died and one remains in critical condition. (Read our cover story in the Fall 2022 issue of Action Line here.)

MGM Resorts opened the Mirage hotel dolphin exhibit in 1990 with five bottlenoses, and since then a sickening, staggering 14 dolphins have died for a variety of causes and at a range of ages, according to the Washington Post.

Ending the exploitation of whales and dolphins in entertainment parks and aquariums is long overdue. FoA is bolstered by the recent introduction of the Strengthening Welfare in Marine Settings Act into Congress to prevent the future capture and breeding of whales for public display. FoA is also working on a legal measure that would complement the legislation, so stay tuned.

We also made possible with funding the creating of By All Rights, a documentary directed by Stan Minasian, which boldly makes the case for providing whales and dolphins with legal personhood status, a case that takes into consideration their culture, intelligence and their many similarities to humans. Such a change in status would allow lawyers to sue on behalf of these autonomous mammals when they suffer harm from such human activities as the use of sonar, captivity and ocean pollution.

“There’s no way that dolphins in a tank can live a full, satisfied life because that’s not where they evolved,” said Tom White, author of In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier, during an online seminar for the Whale Sanctuary Project. “In the same way, the kinds of conditions that we humans need to grow, to develop and to have some sense of satisfaction in life is all defined by our evolutionary history.

“Humans didn’t know enough about dolphins and orcas when we got into the business of captivity. But you’re responsible for the consequences of your actions. So, when you finally get the information about what the consequences are, you have a moral obligation to act appropriately. You just can’t say, ‘Oh well, we didn’t know. And we’re just going to keep on going.’ Well, we didn’t know before, but now we do.”

The Mirage management team knows better than to continue to keep and exploit wild animals in captivity. They should close the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat for good and get the animals to reputable sanctuaries far from the Vegas strip.

Image credit: The Blue Surfer