The Mall Dolphins
Okay I know very little about the dolphins that were housed at the West Edmonton Mall but I’ve got a strong attachment to them. I’ve seen their shows in old home videos from our trips to the mall, and I remember seeing Howard when i was 6 and recently I’ve just wanted to learn more about the mall dolphins but I haven’t found too much on them.
Four dolphins were captured off the coast of Florida in 1985 and sold to the West Edmonton Mall, which at the time was the largest mall in the world! Three additional dolphins were said to have died during the capture. The surviving dolphins were given the names, Gary, Mavis, Maria, and Howard.
So from what I’ve gathered they lived pretty basic lives for captive dolphins. Their tanks weren’t large and were featureless. They were also, however, housed indoors [the show tank is pictured about but there was another tank below mall floors]. The water was heavily chlorinated, the animals performed four times a day, and they showed stereotypical behaviour such as raking each other, and repetitive behaviour. Mavis gave birth to three calves in her life, and Maria had two. Four out of five of these calves died shortly after birth, and one was a stillborn. Mavis’ final calf died right after it had been born. The grieving mother, her dead calf, and the calf’s father were left in the show pool for the public to see for at least three days.
Due to the fact their ‘lagoon’ was in the middle of a mall a lot of coins and garbage were carelessly tossed into the show tank, resulting in the dolphins ingesting such objects. I remember hearing about a dolphin dying from eating coins here, and from what I’ve read I’m fairly sure that dolphin was Maria. This could have been a local myth as her cause of death was never announced and the only official statement I’ve read was that her autopsy results were inconclusive and nothing more, but it isn’t unlikely at all and very possible. Maria was the first of the mall dolphins to die in 2000, at the estimated age of 19.
The next dolphin to die was Gary the dominant dolphin of the group. In statements it simply stated he had gotten sick, but I’ve also read that he had some sort of blood disease. He died just a year after Maria and was estimated to be 20.
Mavis was the final dolphin to die at the mall in 2003. I can not find any information about her death, except that grieving over her calf was a major factor. but if someone else knows anything i would LOVE to know. I’ll keep searching, and if I find something I’ll update this post.
With Mavis dying, Howard was left without a companion. Howard remained alone at the mall for 10 months before he was transferred to ‘Theater Of The Sea’ in Florida where he lived out the remainder of his life. The public and media was not notified of the transfer until after to assure Howard got out safely. Howard died about a year after his transfer, in May of 2005. he was believed to be about 26 at the time of his death. He was in poor health before his transferred which contributed to his death [obviously]. He became good friends with two other dolphins during his time at TOTS. His cause of death, like the other mall dolphins is still unconfirmed but he did have stomach ulcers, and his appetite decreased during the end of his life.
I’m not sure why I have such an attachment to the mall dolphins, but I do. i suppose it’s probably for nostalgic reasons more than anything. If anyone has stories or pictures they would be willing to share about their life at the mall [or Howard at TOTS] I would absolutely love to see and read them! Thanks!
The “dolphin lagoon” went on to become home to three California see lions, Kelpie, Clara, and Pablo who all live there today and perform 2 daily shows.
The first image is copyright Dale Shawgo and if anyone else owns the other photos please let me know so I can credit you.