Of course, dolphins die prematurely in the wild - in fact, it's extremely difficult to get a handle on the mortality rates of calves in the wild, because some calves die before they are even observed.
When young captive dolphins die, the usual explanation from marine parks and aquariums is that it's a result of "natural" causes.
At the same time, one of the very tenets of the "superior veterinary care" of these facilities is that animals are protected from the harsh and unpredictable threats faced by those living in the wild. Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, told The Dodo that this point is a crucial one to understanding dolphins' lives in captivity.
"Infant mortality occurs for reasons – it's not just some inherent weakness in some calves," she said. "In the wild, they die because of predation or pollution or poor prey availability for the mother or some natural phenomenon separating the mother and calf (like a hurricane) or net entanglement or something."