After receiving more information from Minnesota Zoo officials, a top lawmaker said Wednesday that he is satisfied that poor communication, not deception, kept legislators in the dark about a plan to close the zoo's dolphin exhibit.
The zoo announced Monday that its popular dolphins, Allie and Semo, will be moved in the fall when repairs begin on the pool where they live. The zoo said it had planned to bring in new dolphins when the pool was finished but found that the animals are unavailable and that the exhibit would have to close.
The previous Friday, Gov. Mark Dayton had signed a $496 million bonding bill that included $4 million intended by legislators to repair the dolphin tanks.
When he learned that the dolphin exhibit would be closed, House Capital Investment Chairman Larry Howes, R-Walker, said he felt misled and would inquire about the possibility of not issuing the bonds.
On Wednesday, Howes said that while he remained disappointed, he is content with the decision.
"With their explanation of everything, I am satisfied that we did the best we could" to keep the exhibit going, he said.
"I have learned a lot about these dolphins that we weren't aware of," Howes said, including the fact that the zoo does not own the dolphins. One is owned by a dolphin connection in Florida and the other by the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, he said. If the dolphins had to be moved for the repairs, the owners were unwilling to move them again, Howes said he was told by zoo director Lee Ehmke.
Satisfied with the explanation, Howes said he is willing to have the bonding money spent to repair the pool for new inhabitants, which could be sea lions, seals, fish or other species.
The zoo posted a statement on its website Wednesday further explaining its decision. It's available at mnzoo.org/global/DolphinStatement.asp.
Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287