The is in the midst of hosting a farewell week for its dolphins, who will soon leave Discovery Bay so the zoo can repair the exhibit.
The dolphins, Allie and Semo, won't return after the repairs are finished—in about a year—because they'll already have been in social groups and formed strong relationships with the other dolphins they're placed with, zoo officials say.
The zoo’s farewell week will take place through Sept. 9, with dolphin open houses so more people can see Allie and Semo informally.
During the open house, people will be able to have their photograph superimposed on a background of Allie and Semo, sign a card for the dolphins, submit photos online on a virtual bulletin board. The zoo also will be taking plastic bags for recycling during the open houses.
"Allie and Semo have been members of our family for many years," a statement from the zoo says. "We are sad to see them go, but we are excited for their new adventures. We invite you to wish them well and thank them for all of the great memories."
The dates/hours for the open houses will be:
• 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 6, 7 (Thursday and Friday)
• 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 8 (Saturdays)
• 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept 9 (Sunday)
Here is a dolphin Q&A that appears on the zoo’s website:
Q: Why are the dolphins leaving?
A: The dolphin exhibit is now 15 years old and has been damaged by the ongoing use of saltwater. The dolphins, Semo and Allie, cannot be in the pools while structural repairs are made to Discovery Bay.
Q: Why can’t Semo and Allie come back when the repairs are finished?
A: The repairs in Discovery Bay will take at least a year. Allie and Semo will move to other accredited facilities where they will be part of larger social groups of dolphins. This is an exciting opportunity for Semo and Allie to form strong relationships with other dolphins.
Q: Why can’t you borrow dolphins from other zoos or aquariums?
A: They are simply not available. Dolphins typically live in social groups, and the Minnesota Zoo would need several dolphins to create this type of setting. There are not enough dolphins available from other institutions to create a new, cohesive social group.
Q: Why has the Minnesota Zoo not revealed where the dolphins are going?
A: It is standard protocol that the transportation of dolphins and many other marine mammals is not publicized for the health and safety of the animals. Once Semo and Allie have made the move, the Minnesota Zoo will provide details and status updates on how they are doing.
Q: What is going to be in the exhibit instead of the dolphins?
A: For the next year, the tank will be empty as repairs are made. After that, there will likely be a temporary exhibit of rays and fish until a larger exhibit can be funded and built.