Wild animals become a smaller part of the Las Vegas Strip


The Mirage Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat attractions remain closed since closing in late September after three animals died over a six-month period, and in light of an impending change of ownership at the 33-year-old Las Vegas Strip resort, the famous amenities may never reopen.

Eleven-year-old bottlenose dolphin K2 died on September 24 in the habitat after receiving treatment for a respiratory illness. In a letter to facility staff, the resort’s acting president, Franz Kallao, noted that the Mirage team was working with veterinarians and pathology experts to determine the cause of death, and with other experts to carry out a thorough inspection of the animals and the establishment during its closure. temporarily to focus on “making sure we have the safest possible environment and the best possible care for our dolphins and giving our team the time they need to process and grieve.

“This is a passionate team that is completely dedicated to the welfare of our animals,” continues Kallao’s letter. “Nothing is more important to them, and this loss is incredibly painful.”

According to a September 29 National geographic article, Maverick, a 19-year-old dolphin, died that month after treatment for a lung infection, and Bella, 13, died in April after being treated for gastroenteritis. The attraction has welcomed visitors to observe and occasionally interact with its dolphins and other animals for more than three decades, and 16 dolphins have died there, according to the nonprofit organization Cetabase.org, which tracks marine mammals in captivity.

Brian Ahern, a spokesman for MGM Resorts International, which operates the Mirage, confirmed last week that there was no reopening date for the animal attractions and that there was “no decision to share for now” regarding the future of the facilities and their animals. The National geographic One article reports that there are seven bottlenose dolphins, four leopards, two lions, eight tigers, a two-toed sloth, an umbrella cockatoo and about 350 aquarium fish at the two attractions.

In December 2021, Hard Rock International purchased the Mirage from MGM Resorts for over $1 billion and announced plans to convert the casino and hotel into a new Hard Rock Hotel in the heart of the Strip. Last summer, Hard Rock confirmed that it would launch its renamed resort in 2025, and none of the familiar Mirage gear is expected to survive the renovations.

“We and Hard Rock are on the same page in terms of animal welfare focus,” Ahern said. “We will continue to work with them to keep the animals healthy, safe and comfortable after the sale of the Mirage property closes as well. All future decisions will be based on what is best for the animals. »

Although it seems likely that the Dolphin Habitat, as well as the Secret Garden, home to big cats belonging to the estate of deceased illusionists and former Mirage headliners Siegfried and Roy, will not reopen, MGM is exploring different options. while working on the transition with Hard Rock.

Even without these circumstances, the presence of wildlife has been declining for years among tourist attractions and production shows in Las Vegas.

“At the time, most major shows such as Jubilee, Swimming pool [de Paris], Follies [Bergere] and Splash had various deeds in them of all kinds, and many animal deeds too. Those shows have all closed,” said magician Dirk Arthur, a longtime Las Vegas entertainer known for incorporating tigers and leopards into his act. He notes that dogs, cats, fish, birds, and snakes are still used in current magic shows like Criss Angel’s. Freak and Popovich Comedy Pet Theater.

MGM Resorts also operates the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Aquarium, perhaps the casino’s largest collection of aquatic animals, and other facilities include the Flamingo’s 15-acre wildlife habitat with tropical birds and fish. But changing trends in Vegas entertainment and attractions are a long way off
the only factor having an impact.

National geographic notes that many countries around the world are increasingly banning the captivity of marine mammals for entertainment purposes, and that Canada banned the trade, capture and breeding of all cetaceans for entertainment purposes a few years ago three years, calling the practices unethical and cruel. Although dolphin programs continue to be more popular in the United States, the iconic Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, who announced this year that they will resume touring their marquee circus in 2023 after five years of retirement , will not use animals as part of the performance.

“I think it’s only been five or ten years since massive attention was paid to the use of wild animals in entertainment,” says Carrie LeBlanc, founder and executive director of Henderson-based organization CompassionWorks International. who works to ensure that all animals live free from captivity. “We really saw the notoriety grow in that time, and…I think our success in Las Vegas with companies like Cirque du Soleil proved that people appreciate shows made by people doing amazing things.

“We don’t need to cage or confine animals to do silly things to get people to buy a ticket,” LeBlanc continues. “Vegas is living proof that we don’t need to do this anymore.”

CompassionWorks has been involved in dozens of protests and campaigns, including those that have influenced the traveling circus industry. The nonprofit organized a protest at the Mirage on Nov. 5 as part of a lobbying effort aimed at Hard Rock, hoping to keep the attractions closed and find new safe homes for its animals. LeBlanc says she’s cautiously optimistic that will happen, as the Hard Rock brand is associated with many famous rock stars and musicians who oppose animal captivity.

Arthur, who scheduled a few performances at Downtown’s Notoriety Live earlier this year before public protests prompted the venue to cancel his shows, says animal activist groups are using mass email campaigns to give the impression that “there is a large percentage of the population against animal shows, which is not true.

“Animal acts have always been a part of strip shows, from the very beginning,” he says. “People love their pets at home and have also always loved seeing animals of all kinds in shows and zoos, and still do, provided the animals are treated with the utmost respect, care and love. at any time. Their well-being and feelings should come first, and they should have fun.

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