Winter the dolphin dies, leaving a legacy of perseverance and inspiration

Winter, the bottle-nosed dolphin who inspired people all over the world after losing his tail and becoming a star in the 2011 film ‘Dolphin Tale’, is dead. Winter turned 16 years old.

Earlier this week, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium said they were treating Winter for a gastrointestinal infection. Within a few days, despite treatments and surveillance around the clock, the aquarium said Winter was taking a turn for the worse.

On Thursday, a team of dolphin experts and veterinarians from across the country gathered in Clearwater to try to nurture Winter back to health. Thursday night, however, Winter was unable to continue. She died just before noon

CMA team member kisses dolphin Winter

In a tweet, the CMA said: “With heavy hearts, the CMA announced tonight that Winter the Dolphin died around 8 p.m., as animal care experts from across the country were working to treat her gastrointestinal abnormality. The CMA family is devastated.”

How Winter got his tail prosthesis

Winter first arrived at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in 2005 after she was caught in a crab trap in the Mosquito Lagoon near Cape Canaveral. Only 2 months old, she survived – but her tail did not.

She was rescued and sent to the aquarium. Since she was found in December, it only made sense to name her “Winter”. That year was the start of an inspiring story that touched people all over the world.

Instead of swimming up and down like a normal dolphin, she swam side by side. The experts in the aquarium knew that it could cause long-term problems if they did not find a solution quickly.

Two years later, Winter was fitted with a tail prosthesis made for her. Her story became a consolation for those of all ages who also have dentures. It inspired the book ‘Dolphin Tale’ and finally the hit film from 2011, which depicted her recovery story. A sequel, Dolphin Tale 2, was released three years later.

Winter dolphins

Winter is seen with his famous prosthetic tail in this file image from Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

The legacy of winter

That was perhaps the most gripping part of Winter’s story – her special connection to people who also struggled with disabilities.

Never before had a dolphin without a tail been rehabilitated. Techniques and materials used for Winter’s tail prosthesis have since been used to help amputated people.

Winter’s history spread throughout the world and across age groups. Her story brought smiles and tears, especially to those who also face the challenge of prosthetic limbs. Fans from all over came to Clearwater to see her, but her many encounters with children and veterans were the most effective.

Jim Savage, the fisherman who rescued the distressed Winter in 2005, later told FOX 13 that the dolphin was a boon to his grandniece, who has velocardiofacial syndrome. The condition results in heart failure and a poor immune system.

“She gives us inspiration and to never give up,” Grace Savage, Jim’s bedsteniece, told FOX 13 during a visit to the aquarium in 2019.

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