The idea of the dolphin habitat was first conceived in the summer of 1983 by Steve Wynn while vacationing at SeaWorld in California. After viewing the facility, Steve Wynn instantly started thinking of ways that he could keep his own dolphins in his backyard. 7 years later, the dream became a reality with the opening of the Mirage hotel.
Originally, all of the dolphins at the Mirage came from the wild. They had all been captured before the Mirage came about. Wynn made the announcement that he would not capture any wild dolphins – KUDOS TO YOU WYNN! With the help of Dr. Martin Dinnes, Lanny Cornell (Former VP of SeaWorld) and Julie Wignall (Director of National Aquarium in DC), they set off to make Steve Wynn’s every wish come true.
Nobody wanted to send their dolphins to the desert, so Wynn saw his opportunity and jumped. Their plan was to target facilities that activists had looked to for having abysmal care since nobody wanted to have any involvement with sending dolphins to the middle of the Mojave Desert. The original dolphins to be purchased were Sigma and Haley from a facility deteriorating fast in Galveston, Texas. While waiting for permits to go through, Haley died by eating poisonous oleander leaves. Sigma was sent to SeaWorld Texas until the Mirage pools were completed. She arrived along with 4 of Dr. Dinnes own dolphins- Banjo, Darla, Duchess and Merlin.
The first pregnancy occurred just six months after their arrival. Both Duchess and Darla were sent by Dinnes to the Mirage facility from Florida while pregnant. Duchess gave birth on April 5th 1991 to a female named Squirt. She was sired by Merlin. She lived to be 15 and had to be euthanized. Darla gave birth just two days later on April 7th 1991. The baby did not last long, passing away just 2 weeks later on the 21st. The cause of death was listed as pulmonary edema and interstitial pancreatis. Could transporting a pregnant dolphin and dropping her into a new habitat in the middle of the desert contributed? It was around this time the third dolphin calf was conceived by Sigma. Her baby, born on May 23rd 1992, was a stillborn.
Currently, two of the dolphins inside the Mirage (Duchess and Lightning) were born in the open ocean.
The Mirage pools are touted as some of the best with their protocols used as models around the globe. They are not without controversy. 12 dolphins have been documented in the MMIR as dying within the facility- and another just months after being shipped to a new facility on the other side of the country. Currently the Mirage habitat is breaking Animal Welfare Act laws by not providing any shade protection from the Mojave deserts harsh elements. At least 3 of their dolphins are suffering from an outbreak of the pox virus, originating back to 2010 when SeaWorld sent dolphins over on a breeding loan.
For just $20, you can sit under the scorching hot sun and watch dolphins infected with the pox virus sit at the gate, lifeless.
**Martin Dinnes was the personal vet of Siegfried and Roy, and an animal dealer. He has been known to break the law and hold animals in conditions below federal standards, in areas without permits or permission, and shot a sealion known as Jazzbo or Jaws. Dinnes failed to file autopsy reports on sealions and dolphins that died within his care over the years. According to the NOAA inventory reports, Dinnes dolphins were dying from various ailments including obstructions of the intestines and heat stroke.