On Thursday, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium returned Winter the Dolphin to the sea in a touching ceremony. The aquarium issued a release about their final good-bye to the beloved and inspiring star of the Dolphin Tale movies:
Encased in a Himalayan sea salt urn, the ashes of Winter were released into the Gulf of Mexico by her animal care staff aboard the U.S. Coast Guard’s 45-foot Response Boat.
In her honor, there was a C-130 flyover by the Coast Guard to begin the ceremony-at-sea. A poem was read in her memory before her ashes were released. Flower petals of roses and orchids were also released into the Gulf and the team blew bubbles, honoring one of Winter’s favorite enrichment activities.
Kelly Martin, VP of Zoological Care, said:
“Being able to return Winter to her natural home was the best feeling in the world. Our goal at Clearwater Marine Aquarium is always to rehabilitate rescued marine life so they can return to the wild. In Winter’s case, as is the case with all non-releasable animals, she unfortunately could not complete her return to the wild in life. But today, we were able to give her that final step – a return home.”
Winter passed away on November 11, 2021, at the age of 16; a necropsy revealed that she died from intestinal torsion. The aquarium has promised to keep Winter’s memory alive, saying:
Together we will keep her inspiration alive forever. Her legacy will continue at Clearwater Marine Aquarium with an onsite memorial for visitors, virtual experiences, and an endowment in Winter’s honor that will safeguard indefinite support of CMA.