An aquarium located just outside Scottsdale that lets customers swim with dolphins has now lost a third of its dolphins in the two years since it opened.
Khloe, a 10-year-old bottlenose dolphin, died on Monday after what Dolphinaris said was a six-year illness.
A Dolphinaris spokesperson said Khloe came to the aquarium suffering from a parasite. Veterinarians and marine experts worked to extend her life, the spokesperson said.
"If the individual was sick, why was it put in the position of performing tricks and other activities that might compromise its well-being?" ASU marine biologist Leah Gerber said.
A Dolphinaris spokesperson said the dolphins are never made to perform or punished if they don't. The spokesperson said the dolphins actually enjoy the interaction.
But finding out who is actually in charge of regulating Dolphinaris, and what they've found during inspections, is difficult to find.
Aquariums that offer programs where people can swim with dolphins are governed under specific rules from the Animal Welfare Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. For the most part, those rules are enforced by the US Department of Agriculture, but also from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
But the inspection records from the USDA have not been available online for years. A note on the agency's website says the records will be back in 2019. But the government shutdown could delay that. The shutdown also means those documents cannot be requested through the Freedom of Information Act.
Private groups, like Cetabase, keep their own database of captive marine mammals by obtaining the USDA's lists.
According to Cetabase, all 8 of Dolphinaris's original dolphins came from breeding programs. They were not captured in the wild.
Legally, dolphins raised in captivity cannot be released back into the wild.
Dophinaris is located on Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community land.