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Death of Mavis leaves Howard blue in lagoon

Bill Mah
The Edmonton Journal

24th July 2003

EDMONTON - Howard is alone after the death of the only other performing dolphin at West Edmonton Mall, and there are calls to move him to a more dolphin-friendly environment.

His partner Mavis died on Wednesday. Howard now is the sole survivor of the four Atlantic bottlenoses brought to the lagoon in 1985 from Florida to perform tricks for tourists.

"What are they going to do with the male dolphin," asked Jamie Knight, a visitor to West Edmonton Mall who started a petition protesting the dolphins' captivity after noticing Mavis appeared sick two weeks ago.

Knight phoned the mall's dolphin lagoon Wednesday and was informed by a staffer that Mavis had died.

"She said: 'Now there's only one male dolphin remaining and there's going to be some real concern and some problem over that because ... he's had his mate for over 18 years.'

"You can't just introduce another female and you can't leave him there alone -- that'd be torture for him."

Mark Holik, West Edmonton Mall's head of security, confirmed the animal's death Wednesday but could provide no details.

Mall general manager Gary Hanson said no decision has been made about Howard's future.

"Mavis died today and we have to look at it as a team of what's happening in the future," Hanson said.

"We don't have the answer 12 hours after Mavis died."

"We've always said we will not go out and capture dolphins and bring them to West Edmonton Mall. That's all we're saying."

Tove Reece, director of the Edmonton advocacy group Voice for Animals Society, said the mall faces a tough decision on what to do with Howard.

"They're very sociable animals and he's going to be all on his own," Reece said. "If the mall wanted to do the moral thing, they would help facilitate him into rehabilitation and perhaps save his life."

Reece said she hopes the mall doesn't bring in a companion dolphin.

"With three dolphins dying just like that and every single calf born out there dying, I think people in Edmonton are starting to realize that this is a death sentence for these animals.” Reece said.

The lagoon has been a pool of grief for its dolphin inhabitants.

Mavis and Maria, a dolphin who died in 2000, gave birth to several calves over the years, all of whom died shortly after birth. Last summer Mavis grieved by nudging the dead newborn in view of hundreds of shoppers.

Before Mavis's death, mall officials said they would not be replacing the two dolphins after their deaths.

Coun. Stephen Mandel said he wanted the remaining dolphin moved from the mall.

"I would like to see maybe the dolphin moved to the West Coast where there's companionship and a proper environment. I think leaving him in a situation like that is not right."

Edmonton Humane Society spokeswoman Melissa Boisvert said the agency has received no complaints regarding the animal's death. Society constables regularly inspect the dolphin tank but she wasn't sure when the last inspection occurred.

"We don't agree with dolphins being kept in captivity but the dolphin tank does meet regulations," she said.

Knight said she first noticed something appeared amiss with the female dolphin on a shopping trip two weeks ago.

"I noticed one of the dolphins just not swimming properly," Knight said. "The dolphin was swimming sideways, just kind of floating."

"They must have known the dolphin was ill because they've been cancelling shows for the past three days."

But Knight said she also heard from an acquaintance that the dolphins performed a 10-minute show this week. "The trainer admitted to the public that the dolphin was not feeling well, so she said I don't understand why the show went on anyways if the dolphin was ill."

Knight said she's gathered about 300 signatures on her petition in three days.