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As Hurricane Irma tore across the Caribbean and headed for Florida, ocean animals sought shelter deep under the water. But the animals left behind at the Miami Seaquarium could only wait, terrified and helpless, as the Category 4 storm approached. Two captive dolphins, Noel and his daughter Rioux, died shortly thereafter. 

Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C., noted, “Being at the mercy of severe storms and hurricanes … is just one more reason why whales and dolphins shouldn’t be in captivity in the first place.”

The Seaquarium is denying that the dolphins died because they were left defenseless in a hurricane. But the timing is suspicious, particularly after the park admitted that seven of its 10 Nile crocodiles—one of nature’s hardiest animals—didn’t survive the storm. The Seaquarium is blaming the dolphins’ deaths on a respiratory infection and an infection related to a bee sting, respectively. If the park’s story is true, the dolphins still died as a direct result of captivity, as both conditions are rarely seen in the wild. And Dr. Rose noted that it’s not unlikely that dirty, contaminated water that was dumped into their enclosures during Irma exacerbated the infections.

An aerial view of an orca named Lolita swimming in a pool.

These dolphins’ deaths bring the total number of cetaceans who have died in marine parks this year to 53—more proof that captivity kills.

Orca Lolita managed to survive Hurricane Irma, just as she’s managed to survive live capture and more than 45 grim years in the tiniest orca tank in the world. PETA is looking forward to making our case in the appeal of our Endangered Species Act lawsuit against the Miami Seaquarium later this year, and we hope that Lolita will spend the next hurricane season diving deep in her home waters, not trapped in a pathetic puddle of a tank as a deadly storm rages around her.

E-mail the parent company of the Miami Seaquarium and its sister park, Marineland Antibes in France, and demand that it release the animals into seaside sanctuaries where they can have some semblance of a natural life, a right that has been violently taken away from them.

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