CLEARWATER, Fla. – Winter the Dolphin, star of “Dolphin Tale,” has died, according to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium announced Thursday night the 16-year-old marine mammal died at 8 p.m. as animal care experts from around the country worked to treat her gastrointestinal abnormality.
“She wasn’t quite eating as much as she typically would, so that kind of ramped things up in terms of us wanting to do more in terms of her care,” CMA President Dr. James Powell said earlier this week. “She’s very special; the world adores her.”
“The CMA family is devastated,” the company said Thursday night.
During preparation for a procedure, the CMA Animal Care team observed that Winter’s behavior and vital signs were declining. The medical team tried several life-saving efforts, but she died being held by her caregivers.
“While we are heartbroken by Winter’s death, we are comforted knowing that our team did everything possible to give her the best chance at survival. We worked with specialists and marine mammal experts from around the country to provide her with the best care available. Our staff worked around the clock during this challenging time,” said Veterinarian Dr. Shelly Marquardt, DVM, CVA. “I’m honored to work alongside such dedicated and talented professionals who gave their all for Winter.”
The aquarium will be closed to the public Friday “to provide time for our staff to grieve. A grief counselor will be made available to the team.”
CMA said plans for a memorial for Winter, honoring the positive impact she made on the world, will be announced soon.
Winter made national headlines in 2005 when she was rescued off the Florida coast and taken to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The bottlenose dolphin had become entangled in a crab trap line and lost her tail. She later received a prosthetic replacement.
Winter’s story inspired the film “Dolphin Tale,” starring Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, and Morgan Freeman.