Today Marineland Dolphin Adventure celebrates Nellie’s 61st birthday; the bottle-nosed dolphin, was born on February 27, 1953 in the salt-water tanks at Marine Studios on the St Johns and Flagler county border located at 9600 Oceanshore Boulevard.
Although Nellie absolutely holds the record for being the oldest dolphin born in a marine park and remaining in human care, it is likely that she is also the oldest dolphin in human care anywhere in the world.
Nellie is as big a celebrity at Marineland today, and certainly as loved, as she was at a younger age when she performed stunts in the stadium tank of Marine Studios for crowds that once numbered in the thousands daily.
“Those were the days before Sea World and Disney; I am so thankful that Nellie made it through the lean years that followed,” Historic City News editor Michael Gold added. “As a teenager, I worked there as a ticket-taker; it was the best summer job in the area.”
Nellie can be easily identified by her large size, large curved dorsal fin and dark coloration. Both of Nellie’s parents, “Susie” and “Happy”, were part of the Marine Studios family, and, at Marineland in 1984, Nellie delivered a son who is appropriately named “Sunny”.
Founded in 1937 as Marine Studios, Marineland began as an underwater film studio. In 1938 it was opened to the public as the “Worlds First Oceanarium.” Large porthole windows on the side of the Oceanarium gave many their first glimpse at the beauty and diversity of the ocean. Marineland pioneered dolphin training in the 1940’s and the animals soon became the stars of elaborate performances where they exhibited aerial acrobatics. The ever growing popularity of bottlenose dolphins, conservation, and education resulted in Marineland evolving from a show stadium environment to a new habitat that allows guests to meet dolphins up close. Today guests enjoy an educational experience swimming, touching, feeding, and even painting with dolphins.