CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — A Florida aquarium will temporarily close to treat its resident prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies. A suspected infection has left the famous marine mammal in critical condition.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium said in a statement it will shut its doors Friday “to create the best possible environment” for medical staff to treat Winter, a 16-year-old female bottlenose dolphin suffering from a gastrointenstinal infection.
“The dedicated CMA animal care experts are consulting with top animal care and veterinary specialists in the country and exploring all possible options to save Winter’s life,” the aquarium statement said.
Aquarium plans to reopen on Saturday.
Two months old, Winter became trapped in a crab trap close to Cape Canaveral. Her tail was entrapped and forced her to have it amputated. “Dolphin Tale,” which was released in 2011, chronicled Winter’s recovery and the unprecedented, lengthy effort to fit her with a prosthetic tail.
Starring Harry Connick Jr. and Ashley Judd as well as Kris Kristofferson, Morgan Freeman and Morgan Freeman was shot mainly at Clearwater aquarium. This film helped to put the Clearwater aquarium, which was first established in 1972 at the former site of an old water treatment plant on the global map.
Officials there say Winter’s story has become an inspiration for disabled people around the world and the aquarium has received thousands of messages of support since Winter’s illness became known.
“Many are inspired by her resiliency and this amazing response reminds us of how deeply she has affected millions, including so many on their own health journey,” the aquarium statement said.
A sequel, “Dolphin Tale 2,″ was released three years later starring Winter and Hope, another rescued dolphin cared for by the Clearwater aquarium.
Bottlenose dolphins are among the oldest and most intelligent animals species. They can live to be 60 years old.
Clearwater Aquarium is home to two of its most well-known residents, Winter and Hope. The Clearwater aquarium also runs rescue programs for manatees and sea turtles.
An $80 million expansion of the facility was recently completed, including a 1.5 million-gallon (56 million-liter) new dolphin complex, to handle the crowds that have descended on the aquarium since “Dolphin Tale” was released a decade ago.