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Grief possibly killed dolphin.

Post-mortem fails to find cause of death of Mavis

By Bill Mah

The Edmonton Journal
25th July 2003

EDMONTON, Canada - Lingering grief over the loss of her calf may have contributed to Mavis the dolphin's death, says the animal's veterinarian.

"We did the post-mortem and we didn't find any medical reasons for her death," said Dr. Carol Shwetz, who has treated West Edmonton Mall's former pod of four Atlantic bottlenose dolphins for eight years.

Mavis, a 23-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, died at the mall Wednesday morning.

Only a male dolphin named Howard remains of the four who were brought to the mall's popular Dolphin Lagoon attraction in 1985 from Sarasota, Florida.

Shwetz said Mavis had refused to eat for some time before her death for unexplained reasons. "It may have been just time to die." She said no one knows how long dolphins live in the wild.

The alpha female, known by trainers for a bubbly, eager-to-please personality and love of showing off, also refused to eat after her newborn calf died last July. Hundreds of shoppers watched as the calf floated in the pool, Mavis gently nudging it every so often.

"She did begin to eat but I never did see that joy return back to her that we had seen in the earlier years."

General manager Gary Hanson said Wednesday the mall hasn't decided what to do with Howard, the remaining dolphin.

Shwetz said she hopes for a "grace period" of 30 to 45 days before any decisions are made.
"A solitary dolphin certainly has concerns," she said. While noting it isn't her decision to make, options such as bringing in dolphins or other companions like sea turtles or penguins could be considered.

"Of course, we're going to also pursue sending him out someplace elsewhere he can be with dolphins. That requires a great deal of thought and research as to where he would go."

Howard appears to be coping well so far, Shwetz said. "Right now, he's swimming around interacting with the trainers."

She added that Howard isn't entirely alone. The animal likely considers his trainers part of the family.

While dolphin shows have been cancelled, when they start up again depends on Howard, she said.
"The shows have been part of their routine in life and I believe the dolphins enjoy the shows as much as the people do.
The shows provide them with an opportunity to show off and they enjoy that."

Some animal advocates are calling for Howard to be retired and sent for rehabilitation.

While Shwetz said it's an option, "it's like our senior citizens. If we put them in an extended-care home so many of them lose heart."