May 1, 2014
Nellie, the oldest dolphin in human care, peacefully passed away at Marineland Dolphin Adventure earlier this week. While the Georgia Aquarium and Marineland staffs are saddened by this loss, we celebrate the joyous 61 years she lived at Marineland and appreciate the legacy she left for us to cherish.
Nellie was born at Marine Studios, the precursor of Marineland Dolphin Adventure, on Feb. 27, 1953. Since then her presence has motivated the message of conservation and awareness to all who have met her. She became an icon for other marine mammals and the zoological community, living twice the expectancy of female Atlantic bottlenose dolphins residing in the open ocean. Her age is a testament to the great level of care and love she received by the Marineland staff. Her long life provided rich new data for researchers and scientists regarding geriatric dolphins.
Being the first Oceanarium in the world, Marineland has an abundant history. It was proud to have shared 61 of its 76 years with Nellie. Not only was she an extraordinary dolphin but she inspired millions of guests who visited Marineland and warmed her way into their hearts forever. She starred in several television shows filmed at Marineland’s original dolphin stadium and instantly became a fan favorite. Nellie was famous for her hula hoop trick and other behaviors she performed for the awestricken crowds. She was even featured in a Timex commercial airing on Frank Sinatra's special, "Welcome Home Elvis.”
In addition to her national fame, Nellie was an acclaimed local celebrity and adored by the community. Jacksonville University officially adopted Nellie as the school's mascot and awarded her honorary undergraduate and graduate degrees. In June 2013, the University bestowed an honorary doctoral degree to Nellie in a presentation as part of Marineland’s 75th Anniversary.
For more than 61 years, Nellie touched the lives of people who walked through the doors of Marineland. She gave them the gift of awareness, education and conservation while paving the way to help protect marine mammals in the world’s oceans. While an unfortunate loss for Marineland Dolphin Adventure and the Georgia Aquarium family, Nellie’s legacy continues through the memories created and inspiration she left behind.
This is a time to celebrate the life of Nellie and the moments we shared with her. We would love to continue this celebration through the memories and kind words of our fans, who we greatly appreciate for being some of her greatest supporters. You can share these moments through the Marineland Facebook and Twitter page, using the hashtag #Nellie.
A public celebration for Nellie is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 15th. Information is available on Marineland’s website, www.marineland.net, and additional details will be shared as they become available.
Take a look into Nellie's long life and historical moments:
Created with flickr slideshow.