Spree the socially awkward dolphin ships out

Spree's off to Chicago

Spree's off to Chicago

No mom around for guidance. Tough guys leading her astray. Not playing nice with the other girls. Yes, it was time for Spree, the Minnesota Zoo's socially awkward bottlenose dolphin, to get a change of scene.

She's off to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago with a better class of friends, via a privately-chartered FedEx jet.

Spree was born at the zoo in 2002, but her mother, Rio, died four years later. According to the zoo:

In Rio's absence, Spree lacked the maternal influence necessary to teach her "dolphin social etiquette;" in fact, her role models at that time were two adult males who treated her more as an adult dolphin than a four-year-old. Certain behaviors were exhibited toward Spree, who did not have the social skills to respond appropriately. In some instances, this led to aggression.

Last year, three young female dolphins from Brookfield took up residence in the pool next to Spree while their Windy City tank was undergoing renovations. Zoo staff worked at letting the dolphins get to know each other, and they were eventually allowed to swim together.

Since that day, much progress has been made. The dolphins are participating together in training sessions and working as a team. We have observed Tapeko, the matriarch, positively associating with Spree as she does with the other dolphins. Noelani, Allison, and Spree -- who are all younger dolphins -- are enjoying a typical juvenile relationship with each other.

"It was difficult to see Spree go," said Minnesota Zoo Marine Mammal Supervisor Diane Fusco. "But it was the right thing to do for her."