Death of captive dolphin, age 50, mourned, derided at Marineland Dolphin Adventure

Even as it mourns the death of Chubby, a 50-year-old bottlenose dolphin, Marineland Dolphin Adventure can’t catch a break. The Florida-based marine entertainment facility made the announcement on Facebook this week, prompting online critics of animals in captivity to chime in on the animal’s passing.

Here’s Marineland’s announcement:

“Marineland Dolphin Adventure is saddened to announce that one of its beloved dolphins, Chubby, passed away on Tuesday. At 50, Chubby lived an extraordinarily long life; surpassing the average life span of wild dolphins at 13 years, and those in accredited facilities at 25 years. Chubby not only helped researchers better understand dolphins through his longevity, but he also inspired thousands of people by creating personal and lasting connections with each one of them. His longevity can be attributed to the excellent care he received at Marineland and the passionate care team who dedicate their lives to the health and well-being of all animals in their care.”


That typical lifespan, which is also posted on the company’s website, is now under fire.

Natasja Dirken wrote an passionate critique on Marineland’s Facebook page:

“Chubby is finally free! No more being a puppet on a string and doing stupid tricks for ignorant people! Swim FREE in the heavenly waters now. Your misery is over! He lived longer then average, but stop making false claims!!! You say that wild dolphins only live 13 years???? That’s the age that they start to breed. If so there wouldn’t be any wild dolphins! The captive industry continues to downplay higher mortality rates and claim that marine mammals are safer and healthier in their care!! Chemical pools, medication, food deprivation……There is only ONE place for a dolphin and that is the OCEAN!

So did, Elaine Osullivan Mills: “Finally free Chubby xxxx If Marineland has been lying to the public about Dolphins in the wild only living 13 years, what else have they been lying about??”

And, Geoff Johnson wrote, “What a crock Marineland. This dolphin was imprisoned to earn you money. It should have been living in the wild with it’s family, not stuck in a swimming pool.”

To its credit, Marineland has not deleted the negative posts. (The facility has also spoken out against the dolphin hunts in Taiji, calling the Japanese dolphin drives “cruel.”) And, it also has its fair share of defenders.

“It takes a really kind-hearted person to turn a death into a platform,” Cat Rust wrote. “Good job.”

Kathy Catron posted, “Thanks to Marineland for their research which leads to care and life saving efforts for marine life far beyond their facility.”

And, Isaac Wadd added:

“The fact that he outlived wild dolphins and most other dolphins in human care is incredible. He lived a much longer life thanks to all the loving trainers and staff at Marineland. You should all feel accomplished. Sending my support and love to all the staff at the park.”

Chubby arrived at Marineland in December, 1971 when he was about 3-years-old. He fathered two other dolphins at the facility, Roxy and Casique, and did live a long life by any measure.


But dolphins are generally considered a “long-lived species” with a life expectancy of around 45 years, according to the Australian Museum. And, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also says the species lives 40-50 years. “Sexual maturity,” it adds, “varies by population but ranges from 5-14 years of age”

Marineland is affiliated with  Georgia Aquarium, but it’s not related in “any way” with Canada’s Marineland. It says the oldest dolphin in human care was born on February 27, 1953 and resided with the facility for 61 years.

Photos Marineland Dolphin Adventure/Facebook

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