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Dolphin at Minnesota Zoo is pregnant; dolphin show on hold

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Allie the dolphin
Allie, a 21-year old bottlenose dolphin, is pregnant. Her calf is due in spring, 2009. She was a new addition to the Minnesota Zoo in January.
Photo courtesy Minnesota Zoo

The Minnesota Zoo has temporarily canceled its popular dolphin show because one of the dolphins is pregnant and another has been having behavior problems.

The zoo brought in two female dolphins in January, hoping to breed them with the zoo's only male dolphin, Semo.

One of the females, named Allie, is now pregnant and due next spring.  The other female, April, is not pregnant but is seemingly acting as though she is. 

Kevin Willis, director of the zoo's biological programs, says they're trying to figure out why April is showing signs of pregnancy, when she's not.  

She's also been eating less and is undergoing diagnostic testing by veterinary staff at the University of Minnesota.

"So we just decided, with one confirmed pregnancy and one we're not sure about, let's just take away any stress, take away the show element of the day," Willis said.  "Not an easy decision, but we decided we would just let those animals have a break."

Willis says visitor surveys constantly rank the dolphin show near the top of the zoo's attractions.  Visitors will still be able to see the dolphins even though the dolphin performances are on hold.  

The zoo has a total of four dolphins.

Semo, in his 40s, is thought to be one of the oldest dolphins in captivity. Willis says Semo has already been performing less as he ages.  

Spree, at 7, is the youngest dolphin. She was born at the zoo.

April, 41, and Allie, 21, are both owned by the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.  April is Allie's mother.

Willis says all four will now be managed as breeding dolphins to get ready for next year's calf birth.  Until now, they'd been managed as show animals.