The Sad Truth About the Dolphins at the Indianapolis Zoo

Dolphins are highly intelligent animals who form close family bonds in the wild and can travel up to 62 miles in a day. The stimulating environment of life in the sea cannot be recreated in captivity in a tank. In dolphin shows, people marvel at the dolphin’s ability to do entertaining tricks, while denying their desire to be free. Between shows dolphins are often confined to even smaller holding tanks, enduring an eternity of boredom in a depressing life sentence that may last for up to 40 years.

How did these dolphins come to live in a tank in the middle of Indiana?

Three of them were stolen from their families directly from the ocean.

The process of stealing baby dolphins from their family is horrific. Babies struggle to stay with their mothers and the mothers fight fiercely for their babies. (*Note that 5 other dolphins who lived and died at the Indy Zoo in previous years were also captured in the wild.)


Five of the dolphins were born at the Indianapolis Zoo.

The Indy Zoo has had a total of 31 baby dolphin births. 26 of the babies have died. Deprived of any chance to live as nature intended, the surviving babies were born into a sad life of captivity. They’ll never get to experience the joy of swimming next to their families in the ocean.

One additional dolphin was rescued.

The heartbreaking story of Nova: Kidnapped from the ocean 30 years ago and mother to 8 babies who died at the Indy Zoo.

Meet Nova, Mother of 8 Dead Calves At The Indy Zoo

The Dolphin Project, created by famous former dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry compiled a detailed history of the Indianapolis Zoo’s shady history with marine mammals.

 Indianapolis Zoo: Of Drive Purchases and Botched Breeding Programs

 Why capture and breed animals only to keep them captive and prevent them from exhibiting natural behaviors? There are many legitimate conservation agencies equipped to help dolphins thrive in the wild.


We are calling on the Indianapolis Zoo to follow the ethical lead of The National Aquarium who announced they are ending their dolphin program and moving the dolphins to a seaside sanctuary.


Tell the Indianapolis Zoo that you think they should consider ethical options. Click the bird below to send them a message on Twitter:

Tweet: Hey @IndianapolisZoo, have you considered finding a more ethical home for your captive dolphins? #IndyZoo #Captivity #ZooBlues

Thanks_But_No_TanksCetacean Captivity Resources

Learn About Ocean Animals

  • Learn about Nova and other dolphins at the Indianapolis Zoo

  • When viewing captive animals, you will likely miss out on seeing a variety of their natural behaviors. Planet Earth is an amazing way to view animals in their natural habitat.

  • Information about Common Bottlenose Dolphins.

  • Although bottlenose dolphins are not one of the endangered dolphin species, they are the kind you generally see in aquariums. The Indianapolis Zoo breeds a non-endangered species with twice the calf mortality rate as dolphins in the wild.

stoptheshowMarine Animal Conservation Organizations