A prosthetic-tailed dolphin named Winter fell ill in mid-November at a Florida aquarium. Experts from around the country attempted life-saving efforts. Sadly, the famous dolphin died while being held by caregivers.
God has compassion on all creation. (Psalm 136:25) And while being made in God’s image makes humans special, God cares about animals too. (Luke 12:6-7)
Winter was two months old when her tail became entangled in a crab trap. The snare forced a tail amputation. The 2011 movie Dolphin Tale chronicled Winter’s recovery and the extraordinary effort to fit her with a prosthetic tail. Three years later, Dolphin Tale 2 continued the story.
The Dolphin Tale movies put the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on the map internationally. “This place wouldn’t be here if it [weren’t] for Winter,” aquarium president James “Buddy” Powell says.
Winter died of twisted intestines. The damaged organs were impossible to reach through surgery. The dolphin had experienced intestinal issues before, but never like this, says Powell.
Aquarium staff worked around the clock to save 16-year-old Winter and minimize her pain.
“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,” says veterinarian Shelly Marquardt.
Aquarium staff say the twisted intestine condition is found in stranded wild dolphins “as well as any living being with intestines.” They add, “Because of Winter’s injury and the distortion it caused in her body, she was more prone to facing health complications since her rescue.”
Shortly after Winter arrived in 2005, the aquarium partnered with the largest U.S. provider of prosthetic limbs to create her tail. Winter might have survived without one by using her side flippers to swim. But experts believe that would have led to skeletal misalignment and other health issues.
Dolphin skin is so thin it can be cut with a fingernail. So attaching the tail without harming Winter was a problem. Eventually, researchers created a soft silicone-like sleeve. The prosthetic tail slid snugly over the sleeve.
Human prosthetics now use such sleeves too! The devices have nearly eliminated skin sores.
Winter’s rehab inspired people around the world. Fans—including autistic children and soldiers with missing limbs—made pilgrimages to visit her. As the dolphin’s final illness became known, the aquarium received thousands of support messages.
Aquarium officials say, “This amazing response reminds us of how deeply she has affected millions, including so many on their own health journey.”
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. . . . Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. — Luke 12:6-7
Why? God cares for all His creatures, and He also allows for humans to help animals and animals to help humans—sometimes in unpredictable ways.