Liver disorder kills dolphin at aquarium

May 25, 1999|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Hailey, a 20-year-old Atlantic bottlenose dolphin who entertained thousands of visitors to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, died late Saturday in the aquarium's hospital pool after a long battle with a painful liver disease.

Born wild in the Gulf of Mexico, Hailey was captured in 1981. The aquarium acquired her and two other dolphins from a Florida company just before the 1990 opening of the Marine Mammal Pavilion.

In 1995, Hailey was diagnosed with hemochromatosis, a disorder in which the liver is unable to properly capture and store iron, leaving damaging iron deposits in vital organs. Common in humans, it had never before been reported in marine mammals, said Brent Whitaker, the aquarium's director of animal health.

After many bouts of illness over the years, Hailey stopped responding to treatment. Her weight dropped by a third, and her trainers agreed she was in pain. Late Saturday, Whitaker decided to euthanize her.

Hailey died years short of the 25-year average life span for wild dolphins. She is survived by a male calf, Cobie, born at the aquarium in March 1992.

Pub Date: 5/25/99

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