CLEARWATER – Panama, one of Clearwater Marine Aquarium's resident Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, died unexpectedly around noon today, according to Frank Dame, executive vice president and COO.
“At this time we don't know what caused her death. We noticed that she has not been eating for the past couple of days. During an examination by our veterinarian Dr. (Mike) Walsh this morning, she stopped breathing,” Dame said.
Panama, believed to be in her 40s, was transported to the University of Florida Wednesday afternoon for a necropsy to determine the cause of death. Dame said he expected to know more about what happened in a few days.
The average lifespan of bottlenose dolphins is around 20 years, but they can live into their 40s in captivity.
Panama was found sick and stranded near Panama City Beach in October 2000. It was believed she'd become a beggar dolphin and perhaps had contracted an infection after being fed fish from a bait bucket.
The staff at Clearwater Marine Aquarium changed her name to “Panama” to reflect her stranding location. Panama was transported to the marine animal hospital on Island Estates on March 23, 2001, and had lived there ever since.
Panama, who was deaf, enjoyed floating on rafts and playing with toys, and she appeared in shows at the aquarium with Winter and Hope, CMA's two other female dolphins who will be the stars of “Dolphin Tale 2.” Filming is expected to begin at the aquarium next month.
“Panama will always remain in our hearts,” Dame said.