Minnesota Zoo welcomes back dolphins at Discovery Bay

The Minnesota Zoo is welcoming back over half a dozen bottlenose dolphins, but only for a limited time.

The seven bottlenose dolphins arrived in Minnesota on Wednesday from the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois. They will stay in Discovery Bay until their dolphin habitat back home is finished with renovations, the Minnesota Zoo announced in a news release Friday.

"We are grateful to our colleagues at the Minnesota Zoo for providing a space for our dolphins while their home habitat is being renovated," said Rita Stacey, Vice President of Animal Programs for the Chicago Zoological Society. "The size of the marine mammal pools at the Minnesota Zoo allows our entire dolphin group to remain together, which helps in the acclimation to their new temporary home."

This isn’t the first time some of these dolphins have visited the Minnesota Zoo. In fact, five of the seven dolphins have stayed in Minnesota before, including Spree, who was born at the Minnesota Zoo in 2002, and Allie who visited in 2008. 

Three other females, Tapeko, Noelani and Alison, visited in late 2009 while upgrades were being made to their habitat in Brookfield Zoo. For the two males, Lucky and Kai, this is their first time visiting Discovery Bay. 

Meet the pod

Dolphins are back at the Minnesota Zoo (Photo courtesy of Lynette Kleisner/CZS-Brookfield Zoo)

  • Tapeko, born in 1982, is the mother of Noelani and Allison.
  • Allison, born in 2005, is the youngest and known as a playful member of the group.
  • Allie, born in 1987, lived at the Minnesota Zoo from 2008-2012, she spends a lot of time with Tapeko.
  • Spree, born in 2002 at the Minnesota Zoo, is known for being very connected with the entire group, especially Noelani.
  • Noelani, born in 2003, is known for her tail-splash and close relationship with her sister, Allison and Spree.
  • Lucky, born in 1974, is the oldest of the group and the father of Noelani.
  • Kai, born in 1994, is the second male in the group.

The last time the Minnesota Zoo housed dolphins in Discovery Bay was in 2012. The dolphins were ultimately moved to larger groups at partner institutions for the wellbeing of the animals because they need to live in social groups. The Dolphin Consortium – a partnership program of a select number of accredited dolphin facilities that advises on the care of dolphins – determined a proper social configuration was not available at the Minnesota Zoo at that time, according to the press release.

The seven dolphins will be cared for by specialists from Brookfield Zoo, with assistance from Minnesota zookeepers, and will provide care, enrichment and training to the seven dolphins.

Once the group is fully acclimated to their new surroundings, the dolphins will be visible to the public. Check the Minnesota Zoo's social media update for more information.