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Chicago zoo ships its dolphins FedEx

September 3, 2009 |  7:26 pm

FedexHow do you transport three dolphins between two zoos that are in different states?

You could use a specially outfitted trailer.  But if you're Chicago's Brookfield Zoo, you'd take a faster, albeit slightly unorthodox, route: shipping them Federal Express.

The Brookfield Zoo has extensive plans for a renovation of its Seven Seas dolphin arena, which is home to three female dolphins, 27-year-old Tapeko, 5-year-old Noelani and 3-year-old Allison.  The arena is 20 years old and will undergo a major transformation now that it's no longer populated with dolphins. A new water filtration system; an updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning system; and increased space for the dolphins' caregivers to stand on a deck above the pool are among the renovations planned.

But none of these could take place with Tapeko, Noelani and Allison present, so they had to be transported to another zoo.  The Minnesota Zoo in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul fit the bill, and FedEx donated the cost of the flight.  The three dolphins flew accompanied by Rita Stacey, the Brookfield Zoo's marine mammal curator, as well as two trainers and a veterinarian.  During the flight, the dolphins "were actually very comfortable and relaxed," Stacey told the Chicago Sun-Times.

"The move went just as planned," said Kim Smith, vice president of animal care for the Chicago Zoological Society, the agency that manages the Brookfield Zoo.  And it had been planned down to the last detail, with the dolphins undergoing training exercises designed to get them used to the idea of air travel.

Tapeko, Noelani and Allison are expected to return to Brookfield next spring.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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