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Celebrating the Legacy of Nellie

May 1, 2014

Celebrating the Legacy of Nellie

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,, 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.

Reader Comments (1)

I first met Nellie in 1957. She and the other dolphins at Marineland were the first dolphins I ever met and she left a lasting impression in my life. I met her again in 2009 and was delighted to see how healthy and vital she was, still looking closely into the eyes of visitors.

My life has led me back into academia in the past five years, where I earned a Bachelor's degree in Human Geography, specialising in Animal Geographies. I am now within weeks of completion of my doctoral thesis, again in Animal Geographies. My research has been on the contested spaces of Dolphin-Assisted Therapy, the first research on the social implications of this important field of therapies.

I consider a short list of dolphins to have inspired my life's work. I am the Executive Director of the Cetacean Studies Institute, established in 1996. CSI is a research and education institute, focused on the many dimensions of the human-cetacean relationship. Among the main inspirations for the work we have been doing is the story of Nellie.

We understand Nellie and all other cetaceans born among humans as having "nowhere else to go". Born among us, we have the responsibility to rise to the challenges they present to us, to provide them with healthy, interactive, and fulfilling lives. Nellie is a shining example of how dolphins and humans have developed an important relationship between species.

We will miss you, Nellie. I am proud to have known you, and will think of you often, and will remind my fellow humans of your long life.
Rest in Peace, dear friend.

C. Scott Taylor
PhD candidate
Exec. Dir. Cetacean Studies Institute

May 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterC. Scott Taylor

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