April 3, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Note: An image of Kaylee bottlenose dolphin may be downloaded at our photo download page.
After Long Battle, Miracle Dolphin Dies after being Saved Three Years Ago
Chicago Zoological Society Staff Saddened by Kaylee’s Death
Brookfield, Ill.—Chicago Zoological Society (CZS) staff are deeply saddened to announce the loss of Kaylee, a 15-year-old bottlenose dolphin. She was euthanized today with her keepers nearby. The marine mammal and veterinary staff worked around the clock for the past several weeks to resolve why Kaylee’s appetite and behavior changed. On Thursday night, April 2, it was determined that Kaylee’s condition was life threatening, and today, April 3, CZS staff decided that it was in the best interest and welfare of Kaylee to say goodbye.
Born at Brookfield Zoo, Kaylee made national news in 2006 when she was diagnosed with a life-threatening abscess in her lung. Veterinarians took the extraordinary step to use CT scans, performed at Loyola University Hospital, to aid in Kaylee’s treatment. This and other high-tech procedures, including ultrasound exams, bronchoscopies, and a nebulizer, helped save her life; however, recovery from the abscess left Kaylee more vulnerable to recurring health problems because of the scar tissue remaining in her lung.
Kaylee began showing signs of not feeling well in early March. Concerned for her well-being, the zoo suspended the Seven Seas dolphin shows to focus on her care and treatment. Over the past several weeks CZS veterinarian and marine mammal staff have been monitoring and treating Kaylee for behavioral changes and loss of appetite. Initially a fungal infection was diagnosed and successfully treated. By Monday of this week, Kaylee continued not to eat so veterinary staff administered additional diagnostic tests that were negative. These tests were repeated on Wednesday due to Kaylee’s lack of appetite and decline. At this point the medical team found fluid in her abdomen that was not present Monday. Emergency care was initiated in the attempt to save Kaylee’s life and tests conducted overnight showed that the fluid was the result of a tear in her stomach. After determining that this condition could not be effectively treated in a way that would preserve Kaylee’s quality of life, veterinarians and marine mammal staff made the difficult decision to euthanize her this morning.
“Kaylee was one of our favorites, and our marine mammal staff is devastated by her death. After saving her life three years ago, we knew that there was a risk that she would always be vulnerable to recurring illness, just like a human who has suffered serious health problems. As a result, we always monitored her very closely and used high-tech medical procedures and aggressive antibiotic treatments to manage her condition,” said Kim Smith, CZS vice president of animal care. “While we were able to extend her life and keep her in good health the last few years, this episode proved too severe.”
Kaylee’s death is particularly hard for Rita Stacey, curator of marine mammals for CZS, who cared for Kaylee during her illness and was present 15 years ago when Kaylee was born at the zoo. It was the first time she witnessed the birth of a dolphin, and the experience created a special bond between her and Kaylee.
Kaylee was one of four dolphins, all of which are related, living in Seven Seas. The other three dolphins—mother Tapeko and siblings Noelani and Allison—are doing fine. Randall Wells, Ph.D., CZS conservation biologist and one of the world’s foremost dolphin experts, is head of a nearly 40 year wild dolphin study in Sarasota, Florida. According to a study he conducted the median age of death in wild dolphins is 14 years.
Following Kaylee’s passing, staff allowed the dolphin family to come over to one of the gates separating them from Kaylee so they could see her. Marine mammal staff felt strongly that it was important for these intelligent, highly social animals to understand what happened to Kaylee. The dolphins spent time looking at her and vocalizing and interacting with each other.
The dolphin show at Seven Seas is suspended until further notice, but zoo guests can still view the dolphins from the exhibit’s underwater viewing area. Any changes to the schedule will be posted on www.CZS.org.
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, is to inspire conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service.
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