CLEARWATER, Fla. – On the 16th anniversary of her rescue, Clearwater Marine Aquarium proudly announced Friday its plans to honor Winter the Dolphin’s long legacy.
The famous prosthetic-tailed dolphin that starred in the “Dolphin Tale” movies, and inspired countless individuals, died during treatment on Nov. 11. Necropsy results later revealed she passed away due to twisted intestines that were impossible to reach through surgery.
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Winter was just 2 months old when a fisherman found her with her tail wrapped in a crab trap and line in the Mosquito Lagoon.
Biologists ultimately had to amputate her tail. She defied the odds learning to move with a prosthetic tail.
“When a loved one passes, there is a very real fear that we will forget the sound of their voice or even the way they walked. For those of us who loved Winter, I’m proud to announce that Winter will live on in the physical world as well as the digital world so her signature tweet, demeanor, and personality can never be forgotten,” said Clearwater Marine Aquarium President Dr. James “Buddy” Powell.
Since her passing, a large memorial has grown outside the aquarium that includes flowers, photos and emotional messages. Beginning on Dec. 26, the aquarium said guests will be allowed to leave messages at a memorial onsite at the old Winter Zone where she spent most of her life.
Beginning next month, gifts to Winter’s Endowment will be invested, and a portion of the annual income for the investment will be used to address any immediate needs. The remaining funds will be reinvested to safeguard indefinite support of the CMA.
The aquarium is also planning a virtual experience at the CMA’s Virtual Reality theater.
“Throughout her life, CMA captured 360-degree videos of Winter and countless 2-D images which will be produced into a virtual reality immersive experience that guests will be able to visit onsite in CMA’s Virtual Reality theater starting January 2022,” the aquarium noted in a news release.
“We have the technology available to us where guests will be able to virtually swim with Winter and experience her personality as if she were still alive,” Powell said.
Following Winter’s necropsy, her body was cremated.
In a final tribute to her, CMA staff will release her ashes into the Gulf of Mexico next month.
“Returning Winter to her natural home is a poetic ending to her incredible 16-year journey and we couldn’t think of a better way to lay her spirit to rest,” Powell said.
Fans will be able to keep Winter’s memory alive by listening to a song made just for her. The song is being called “In Our Hearts You’ll Be,” by Red Marker 28. Some of the proceeds from the song will be used to support CMA’s mission.
Listen to the song below.
Winter the Dolphin inspired millions across the world with her message of perseverance, the aquarium said. Her story, as told in “Dolphin Tale” and “Dolphin Tale 2″ resulted in a $2 billion impact to Pinellas County from 2012 to 2015 when the rest of the country was coming out of a recession.
In 2020, Clearwater Marine Aquarium opened an $80 million expansion including a brand new 1.5 million-gallon water dolphin habitat providing CMA with the ability to care for more rescued and non-releasable dolphins.