Sundance the Dolphin Dead at Miami Seaquarium
While onlookers were watching the dolphin show at Miami Seaquarium this Christmas, Sundance the dolphin was literally dying to entertain them.
Sundance, who lived at Miami Seaquarium for over 30 years, was one of two dolphins forced to perform all of the venue’s Christmas shows. Just two days later, on December 27th after refusing to eat, Sundance died due to a “precursor to illness.” A necropsy is expected to be performed.
While it’s heartbreaking to know that Sundance spent his whole life in captivity forced to perform for tourists, we take some solace in knowing he is no longer suffering.
As a descendant of one of the dolphins who played “Flipper,” Sundance was one of multiple generations of dolphins who have been forced to endure the traumas of captivity, separated from their families, and starved in order to perform circus-style tricks. He deserved a wild life, as do all of the animals who remain under Miami Seaquarium’s abysmal care.
More than 117 dolphins and whales have died at Miami Seaquarium so far, including Sundance, Luna, and Tokitae (Lolita) who all died last year. And even more will continue to die there unless we act to save them.
Miami Seaquarium’s former veterinarian, Dr. Jenna Wallace, who treated Sundance, is now urging federal and Miami-Dade County officials to step in and remove the animals from MSQ’s care, stating:
“The USDA has federal oversight over these animals. They should confiscate these animals immediately and the county and city of Miami should be working with USDA to make that happen before the park loses more and more animals.”
In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a scathing report following an inspection of the venue in July—just one month before Tokitate (Lolita) died due to “multiple chronic illnesses.” The report, published in November 2023, cited Miami Seaquarium for inadequate veterinary care and violations of animal handling, facilities, employees and/or attendants, and critical separation.
Elelo, a pacific white-sided dolphin, was specifically noted in the report as having undergone treatment for foreign body ingestion, and seven months after that treatment and recommendation by the attending veterinarian to transfer him to another facility, the venue still had not done so, keeping Elelo at “repeated risk of foreign body ingestion.”
Bimini, a 23-year-old-dolphin, had multiple rib fractures in various stages of healing documented during a CT scan in February. The USDA determined these injuries were likely caused by “conspecific aggression” from other animals in her tank
Aggression is not uncommon for marine mammals in captivity. It’s been reported that Catalina, a Pacific white-sided dolphin who shared a tank with Tokitae (Lolita) died in 2021 after sustaining injuries from trauma aggression. Our report, Behind the Smile, found that multiple Pacific white-sided dolphins who shared Tokitae’s tank also attacked her, chasing and raking her with their teeth.
In March 2023, Miami Seaquarium terminated an associate veterinarian—resulting in only two veterinarians caring for the venue’s 46 marine animals, hundreds of birds, fish, sharks, and rays (at the time)—leaving the venue woefully understaffed to provide basic veterinary care to the animals residing in the facility after the positions had not been filled over a month later.
On March 19, 2023, Gemini—a dolphin in the Dolphin Harbor meet-and-greet area—bit a young girl’s hand. Unfortunately, dolphin attacks are not new for the venue itself. Sundance attacked his trainer in April of 2022 during a performance, ramming his rostrum into her side three times and pulling her underwater. The trainer eventually broke free and swam to the edge of the pool
@scphoto_ky A dolphin trainer was just attacked by Flipper. Police just arrived. :( #dolphinattack #miami #seaquarium ♬ original sound - Shannon Carpenter Photography
In the past two months, Li’i, Tokitae’s (Lolita’s) former tankmate, and three manatees have since been moved out of Miami Seaqarium’s care. However, it’s time for the venue to be shut down and for the animals to be relocated to places that do not exploit them as exhibitions for tourists, ideally accredited sanctuaries wherever possible.
Since 2019, World Animal Protection US has been protesting Miami Seaquarium’s use of wild animals for entertainment as just one example of how an entire exploitative industry harms animals for profit, and now we need your help. No wild animals belong in captivity but together, we can end this cruel industry together
Take action now by adding your name to our petition demanding the venue be closed down and animals freed from Miami Seaquarium’s care.
Then, after you’ve signed, send it to 5 friends to sign, too!