Andy Ferris, one of the senior animal care specialists from Brookfield Zoo, feeds Spree, a 20-year-old bottlenose dolphin, at the Discovery Bay habitat at Minnesota Zoo last week. | Photo by Lynette Kleisner/CZS-Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo’s seven bottlenose dolphins have taken up temporary residence in Minnesota and will remain there until some time next spring as repairs and other improvements are made at their Seven Seas habitat in their home zoological park.

The five female and two male dolphins ranging in age from 17 to 48 were transported to Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, a south suburb of the Twin Cities, accompanied by animal care staff and veterinarians. They arrived there on Nov. 2.

“We’ve been working with the dolphins for a couple of months [preparing for the move],” said Rita Stacey, vice president of animal programs for the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo. “They were put in specially designed slings and then secured in open-top transport carriers that are custom-designed for each dolphin and partially filled with water.”

Animal care staff from Brookfield Zoo feed zoo’s bottlenose dolphins following their recent move to Minnesota Zoo while their habitat at Seven Seas undergoes renovations. | Photo by Lynette Kleisner/CZS-Brookfield Zoo

The operation went smoothly, said Stacey, who has worked at Brookfield Zoo for 32 years, mainly with the marine mammals. 

“All of the dolphins had been transported before and all of the females have lived [at the Minnesota Zoo] before,” Stacey said. “Spree [a 20-year-old female] was born there and was quickly zooming around, so I think she knew where she was.”

Minnesota Zoo was happy to have the dolphins as a temporary attraction in their Discovery Bay habitat, which has been without marine mammals for a decade, and Brookfield Zoo was glad to be able to keep the pod together while Seven Seas gets some much-needed work.

Opened in 1987, the Seven Seas Dolphinarium last underwent a major facelift in 2009 when its tanks were relined with Fiberglas – Tapeko, 40; Allie, 35; and Noelani, 19 all lived at the Minnesota Zoo during that project.

Over the next seven months or so, the Seven Seas habitat will get a new roof, courtesy of a $666,600 Public Museum Capital Grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Workers will also install a new climate control system, which will allow Seven Seas to be air conditioned in the summer, and an air purification system. One of the most important aspects of the work from an animal care standpoint is the installation of a lift platform in the south habitat, which can be raised to adjust water depth if there’s a need for emergency or advanced medical care for a dolphin.

“What a wonderful enhancement for care to be given to the dolphin,” Stacey said. “It will allow us safe, easy access to animals in any emergent situation or for long-term care.”

Zoo officials did not provide a total estimate for the cost of all improvements at the Seven Seas habitat.

In addition to the dolphins themselves, Brookfield Zoo animal care staff also have relocated temporarily to Minnesota in order to care for them daily as they would here at home.

The dolphins are scheduled to participate in Dolphins in Action presentations at the Minnesota Zoo beginning later this month.