Marineland Dolphin Adventure announced today the passing of beloved Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, Nellie, the longest-lived dolphin in human care. While Marineland Dolphin Adventure staff and family are saddened by the loss of the iconic 61-year-old dolphin, her life and the legacy she leaves behind are to be celebrated.

Veterinary, animal care and training staff attended to Nellie throughout the day yesterday as her physical condition deteriorated. Due to her rapidly declining health and inability to support herself any longer, the attending veterinarian administered a calming sedative to ease her discomfort.  When it became apparent she would not recover, the difficult decision was made to euthanize. As she peacefully slipped away, she was surrounded by her human family of caregivers who had tended to her so lovingly over the years.

Nellie's 61st Birthday

“This is an extremely sad day for the entire Marineland Dolphin Adventure family and surrounding community,” said Kurt Allen, general manager of Marineland Dolphin Adventure. “Nellie was an amazing animal. The age to which she lived and thrived set a new record for longevity of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the zoological community and is a testament to the extraordinary level of care she received from animal training staff and veterinarians throughout her life,” said Allen.

Since Nellie’s birth at Marineland on Feb. 27, 1953, she had become an icon and served as an ambassador for other marine mammals. She inspired millions of guests to care about dolphins and understand their challenges in the wild. Nellie quickly became a local celebrity at Marineland. At the dawn of the television era in the 1950’s, Nellie starred in several TV shows filmed at Marineland’s original dolphin stadium. Nellie was featured in a Timex watch TV commercial in 1961 that aired on Frank Sinatra’s special “Welcome Home Elvis.”

In 1970, Jacksonville University officially adopted Nellie as the school’s mascot, and she went on to receive honorary undergraduate and graduate degrees. Last year during her 60th birthday celebration, Nellie received her honorary doctoral degree from Jacksonville University in health sciences and longevity.

Nellie's 18th Birthday

At the time of Nellie’s passing, she had far exceeded the average life expectancy of free-ranging dolphins, as well as that of dolphins in human care in accredited zoological facilities.  Throughout her lifetime and in her passing, Nellie will be remembered as an ambassador for dolphins and other marine mammals. By observing and caring for her, she provided researchers and animal care specialists with valuable information regarding geriatric dolphins.  This data can be used to help assess older dolphins in stranding and rescue situations. Experts at other zoos and aquariums can learn more about geriatric animal care and the aging process of dolphins with Nellie’s data serving as a baseline.

“While we recognize that death is part of the cycle of life, this remains a difficult loss for the Marineland Dolphin Adventure family,” said Allen. “However, even when we regretfully lose a beloved animal like Nellie, we remain proud of our animals, animal care and training teams and veterinary program,” said Allen.

A public celebration of Nellie’s life is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 15th. More information will be available on Marineland’s website as additional details become available. To share condolences and memories of Nellie, guests can post on the Marineland Dolphin Adventure Facebook page and on Twitter by using the hashtag #Nellie. A tribute video can also be viewed on the Marineland Dolphin Adventure and Georgia Aquarium blog.


Contact Public Relations:  
Jessica Fontana
Public Relations Specialist


Marineland Dolphin Adventure’s goal is to utilize interactive educational experiences to inspire visitors to value and respect marine mammals and their environment. Located south of St. Augustine, Florida, Marineland Dolphin Adventure opened in 1938 as Marine Studios and marked its 75th anniversary celebration in 2013. In addition to its status as one of Florida’s first and most beloved attractions, the park also pioneered marine science studies, animal training and water chemistry, and is known for establishing the world’s first successful dolphin breeding program. At today’s modern facility, the focus is on intimate, unhurried dolphin interactions, swimming with dolphins and a variety of engaging dolphin encounters. Marineland Dolphin Adventure also hosts memorable oceanside events. Marineland Dolphin Adventure is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit and is affiliate of Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information, visit