News Release
Contact: Sondra Katzen, Public Relations, 708.688.8351,
March 24, 2022
 Note: Scroll to end of press release to download photos  and video of Kai.

Bottlenose Dolphin returns to Brookfield Zoo as Another Departs

Brookfield, Ill. — On March 21, the marine mammal team at Brookfield Zoo welcomed home Kai, a 27-year-old bottlenose dolphin after being away for 16 years at Texas State Aquarium. The same day, they bid a very fond farewell to Merlin, an 8-year-old bottlenose dolphin born at the zoo in 2013, who will now make Texas his new home at the aquarium. Accompanying both Merlin and Kai to their destinations were veterinary and animal care staff from Brookfield Zoo and Texas State Aquarium, who monitored the animals during the flights between Chicago and Corpus Christi.

Kai, who was born at Brookfield Zoo in October 1994, is the zoo’s second successful dolphin calf birth, and currently, the oldest living dolphin that was born at the zoo. He rejoins several resident dolphins—Lucky, Tapeko, Allie, Noelani, and Allison—who he may remember from his past time spent at the zoo. New to Kai is Spree, one of the female dolphins.

The decision to move Merlin out of the maternal group at Brookfield Zoo is based on knowledge known about these marine mammals in the wild. “We know that juvenile dolphins, especially young males, leave their maternal group to spend increasingly more time with other animals their age, which is a normal milestone in a dolphin’s life,” said Rita Stacey, vice president of animal programs for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo. “Merlin will join the group of dolphins at Texas State Aquarium and will be paired with another male dolphin named Schooner, who is just a few years older and has a similar playful personality.”

In preparation for the two dolphins’ moves, an animal care specialist from Brookfield Zoo spent time with Kai at the aquarium and a staff member from Texas State Aquarium spent time at the zoo with Merlin. In addition, staff at both institutions began additional welfare monitoring with all the dolphins prior to their departures and will continue sharing this information as the dolphins acclimate to their new homes. This monitoring includes welfare indicators such as endocrine biomarkers, behavioral observations, CZS’s WelfareTrak® surveys, body condition scores, and more. Brookfield Zoo and Texas State Aquarium are sending additional animal care specialists most familiar with Kai and Merlin to assure their successful acclimation to their new homes. Both the zoo and aquarium have a long history of partnership and are committed to providing the very best care and welfare to these two individual dolphins.

At Brookfield Zoo, Kai will first meet Lucky before being introduced to the females in the group. Once all the introductions are complete and Kai has reacclimated to being back home at Brookfield Zoo, guests will be able to see him at the zoo’s Seven Seas.


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Photo Captions (credit Jim Schulz/CZS-Brookfield Zoo)
0035, 0074, and 9913: Kai, a 27-year-old bottlenose dolphin, is back home at Brookfield Zoo. He had previously spent the last 16 years at Texas State Aquarium.
0043: Kai, a 27-year-old bottlenose dolphin who recently returned to Brookfield Zoo, and Nicole Booton, a senior animal care specialist, during a training/husbandry session.

B-roll: (credit Lynette Kleisner/CZS-Brookfield Zoo)

About the Chicago Zoological Society
The mission of the Chicago Zoological Society is to inspire conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The Society is known throughout the world for its international role in animal population management and wildlife conservation. Its Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare is at the forefront of animal care that strives to discover and implement innovative approaches to zoo animal management. Brookfield Zoo is the first zoo in the world to be awarded the Humane Certified™ certification mark for the care and welfare of its animals, meeting American Humane Association’s rigorous certification standards. Brookfield Zoo is also accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).The zoo is located at 8400 31st Street in Brookfield, Illinois, between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and also is accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, and CTA and PACE bus service. For further information, visit


Sondra Katzen
Media Relations Manager
Office: 708-688-8351
Cell Phone: 708-903-2071


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