On Saturday, a six-year-old dolphin named “Wilson” was found dead in the waters off Grassy Key. The dolphin had escaped from the Dolphin Connection marine park in the Florida Keys in mid-January. It was a bold escape. A Dolphin Connection representative told the Keynoter newspaper that they had no idea how he escaped, “Our staff came in the morning at 7:15 and he was there. At 8, we went to do a feeding and he wasn’t there.” Wilson never attempted to return to the facility after his escape.
We mourn his death, but it is comforting to imagine Wilson’s adventures outside of a tank. For the first time in his life, he was able to move freely, swim as fast as he liked and dive as deep as he wanted. There were no concrete walls to stop him. Instead of the noise of water pumps and trainers commands, he heard the sounds of the ocean. As he explored the underwater world, he felt tides, currents, waves. Perhaps Wilson met wild dolphins during his month of freedom.
In the wild, young dolphin’s learn from their mothers and from other dolphins how to live in the ocean. Wilson was born in captivity and never learned how to use his sonar to chase and catch fish. At Dolphin Connection, instead of natural behaviors Wilson learned how to perform circus tricks to entertain humans, and to eat dead fish. It is believed that he starved to death.