The beloved star of the “Dolphin Tale” movies, a 16-year-old female bottlenose dolphin named Winter, died Thursday night at a Florida aquarium.
“With heavy hearts, Clearwater Marine Aquarium announced tonight that Winter the Dolphin died at approximately 8 p.m. as animal care experts from around the country worked to treat her gastrointestinal abnormality,” officials said in a statement.
“The CMA family is devastated,” the statement added.
The prosthetic-tailed dolphin appeared in the 2011 drama “Dolphin Tale” starring Harry Connick Jr. and Ashley Judd, which was inspired by the real-life Winter, and it centered on the friendship between a boy and a dolphin whose tail was lost in a crab trap.
Winter also starred in the 2014 sequel, “Dolphin Tale 2.”
Dr. Shelly Marquardt, a veterinarian who’s part of the team of professionals who cared for the dolphin, said that “while we are heartbroken by Winter’s death, we are comforted knowing that our team did everything possible to give her the best chance at survival.”
During preparation for a procedure, CMA staff and care team observed that Winter’s behavior and vital signs were declining. Even after several life-saving efforts, Winter died while being held by animal care experts.
“We worked with specialists and marine mammal experts from around the country to provide her with the best care available. Our staff worked around the clock during this challenging time,” Marquardt said. “I’m honored to work alongside such dedicated and talented professionals who gave their all for Winter.”
The aquarium remained closed on Friday to provide time for staff to grieve. A grief counselor will be made available to the team, CMA said.
Officials are planning a memorial to honor “the positive impact (Winter) made on the world.” Details will be announced soon.