Link to STrib article
Minnesota Zoo's baby dolphin dies after leaping out of pool
Patrick Kennedy, Star Tribune
Young Harley might have become frightened or confused while he was practicing swimming maneuvers with his mother, Rio.
Harley, the 7-month old dolphin at the Minnesota Zoo, died Saturday afternoon in a freak accident.
The 5½-foot-long, 120-pound male had been learning to swim between two back pools with his mother when he jumped out of the water and hit his head, according to Kevin Willis, director of biological programs at the zoo in Apple Valley.
The two back pools are separated by a 6-foot-long, 6-foot-wide, 6-foot-deep channel. Gates separate the back pools and the presentation pool where dolphin shows are performed.
Harley was just learning to negotiate his way between the east and west pools, and the training was going well, Willis said.
A staff member working the back pools saw Harley and his mother, Rio, swim from one pool to the other. Rio then swam back across the channel, but Harley trailed behind. Either frightened or confused, he jumped out of the water and hit his head on the deck.
Willis said staff members quickly got the dolphin back into the water, and he took a breath and followed his mother. But it was soon apparent to divers monitoring the dolphins that the calf had died.
X-rays taken at the zoo showed that Harley had fractured his skull. A necropsy will be done at the University of Minnesota.
Harley was born June 21 and weighed approximately 25 to 30 pounds at birth. The name "Harley" was chosen by the dolphin staff from names submitted in a contest sponsored by the zoo and the Star Tribune.
"We've never had a dolphin death due to trauma before," Willis said.
This was Rio's fourth calf born at the zoo. "She has been an excellent mother every time, a very protective mother, which makes this that much more surprising," Willis said.
Rio's three other calves are Shadow, a male born in 1992 and now at the National Aquarium in Baltimore; another male, DJ, born in 1996 and now at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, and Spree, a female born in August 2002, who has remained at the Minnesota Zoo.
Other dolphins in the zoo's exhibit are Semo, a 42-year-old male; Chinook, a 23-year-old male, and Ayla, a 13-year-old female with a kink in her back caused by scoliosis.