BALTIMORE — An 18-year-old dolphin that had been sick since March has died, the National Aquarium announced Monday.
Maya, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, had been monitored by the aquarium's Animal Health team since she first began showing signs of illness earlier this year, the aquarium said. They first noticed she was not eating. Maya was given round-the-clock care as staff tried to provide her nutrients and medications, but a new health concern developed by mid-April.
As aquarium staff determined her liver was inflamed and not functioning properly, creating other issues with her digestive track, the Animal Health team stepped back in to conduct more tests and a biopsy, also consoling with other exerts to make a more accurate diagnosis.
The dolphin’s health continued to decline in recent days, the aquarium said. She did not keep down food and her breathing was elevated. The medical team conferred, and “in the interest of the highest level of animal welfare, the difficult decision was made to euthanize Maya yesterday so that she did not endure additional pain or suffering,” a release from the aquarium said.
Maya was the third-eldest dolphin at the Aquarium. In 2017, the aquariums then-eldest dolphin, Nani, died.
“Maya was a cherished member of our National Aquarium family, and we are heartbroken to lose her,” National Aquarium Chief Executive Officer John Racanelli said in a statement. “We have been deeply moved by the outpouring of support from the community and appreciate everyone’s compassion during this difficult time for our staff, our dolphins and our guests.”
The aquarium said a necropsy will be completed by Johns Hopkins to better understand the underlying causes of Maya’s illness.
Six other dolphins still like at the aquarium: Jade, Spirit, Chesapeake, Bayley, Beau, and Foster. The animals are no longer used in performances at dolphin shows, but they remain housed in Baltimore.
Following growing controversy about keeping such animals in captivity, the Aquarium has been in the process of trying to find a new home to the marine mammals. Since the dolphins have been domesticated, they can’t be released back into the wild, but the hope was they could be sent to a marine animal sanctuary in Florida or the Caribbean.