The MGM-owned Mirage Hotel and Casino may be one of the more recognizable names on the Las Vegas strip -- but this carefully-constructed fantasyland getaway is host to a little-known, yet completely disturbing reality for ten animals who are held as living props for the resort's Polynesian theme.
For the last two decades, the Mirage has kept bottlenose dolphins in two open-air pools tucked away on the hotel grounds. A few times a day, they are made to perform tricks for small crowds of guests, though mostly they swim restlessly, without stimulation and only little respite from the sun's intense rays and the desert's scorching heat.
Some show outward signs of disease; others exhibit compulsive behavior suggesting their cruel captivity has taken a profound psychological toll as well. And then there are the deaths.
Since the dolphin pools first opened at the Mirage in 1990, twelve of twenty-two dolphins have died -- a mortality rate of 55 percent -- mostly from conditions attributable to the stresses of their wholly unnatural setting.