World’s Oldest Dolphin in Human Care Turns 58 | News

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World’s Oldest Dolphin in Human Care Turns 58
World’s Oldest Dolphin in Human Care Turns 58

Nellie, the world’s oldest dolphin in human care, is approaching 58 years of age and will celebrate her birthday with Marineland staff and visitors. The public is invited to join the festivities at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27, at Marineland’s Dolphin Conservation Center, now an affiliate of the Georgia Aquarium. The celebration will include a fish-and-ice cake made especially for the birthday girl, along with a round of “Happy Birthday” performed by all of her friends and fans. Cake more suitable to the tastes of her human party guests will follow. General admission rates apply.

As the 9th animal listed in North American Bottlenose Dolphin Studbook, Nellie has amazed even those closest to her with her longevity. When Nellie was born at Marineland on February 27, 1953, Dwight Eisenhower had recently been inaugurated as America’s thirty-fourth president and Walt Disney’s original animated film Peter Pan had just been released. Later that year, the first James Bond novel was published, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II occurred, and the first color televisions went on sale. Nellie has lived through the beginnings of rock music, manned space flight, and the rapid advancement of communication through technology.

Having already lived more than twice the average lifespan of a female Atlantic bottlenose dolphin in the wild, Nellie continues to eat well, socialize with the other dolphins, interact with staff and guests, and play with enrichment devices daily.

“Nellie’s 58th birthday is not only an exciting event for our staff at Marineland, but more importantly a milestone for the zoological community. Every staff member who gets to work with Nellie on a daily basis realizes how lucky they are,” stated Curator Kevin Roberts. “While we have four other dolphins in their forties here at Marineland, Nellie still stands out as an icon for geriatric dolphins. Each birthday that we celebrate with her means that much more to everyone in our field, and we hope to celebrate many more.”

Nellie starred in TV shows at Marineland's original dolphin stadium beginning in the 1950's, 60's and beyond, as well as in Timex watch commercials in the 1960's. She remains the mascot for Jacksonville University and has received honorary undergraduate and graduate degrees from the school. Marineland staff members are thrilled to celebrate each birthday with Nellie, and recognize that every day spent with this extraordinary animal is to be appreciated as there are no guarantees we will be able to share another. 

Marineland’s Dolphin Conservation Center was acquired by the Georgia Aquarium in January 2011 and operates as a subsidiary of the world’s largest aquarium in Atlanta.

For information on Nellie and Marineland’s Dolphin Conservation Center or to make reservations, call (904) 471-1111 or visit


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