National Dolphin Day is celebrated annually on April 14, in the United States to commemorate one of the smartest mammals in the world. Dolphins are social and friendly creatures, closely related to whales and porpoises. National Dolphin Day celebrates biodiversity and helps bring awareness to the harm that is caused to dolphins through poaching, global climate change, and hunting.
One of Florida’s most famous dolphins lived in Marineland, located along A1A between Saint Augustine and Daytona Beach. Marineland was home to the world’s oldest dolphin and the nation’s oldest living college mascot, Nellie. Born in captivity on February 27, 1953, Nellie helped to bring attention to dolphins as a species. As an ambassador for marine animals to aiding our scientific understanding of dolphins, Nellie impacted everyone that encountered her. She even became the mascot for Jacksonville University beginning in 1970. Her job was to aid students in learning about dolphins during fieldtrips to Marineland. She was also known for her tricks that she performed for guests, including jumping through hoops and interacting with trainers.
Nellie, however, was not only the world’s oldest dolphin, but a celebrity on and off the screen. She had several awards under her belt, as well. As the mascot of Jacksonville University, Nellie would be awarded an honorary masters in 2008, and later a doctorate degree in health sciences during her 60th birthday celebration. She not only had fame from her time with Marineland but was also featured in a Timex watch commercial and a Frank Sinatra special.
Nellie died a year after being awarded her doctorate, at the age of 61. She had surpassed the expectations for the age in which dolphins normally lived. She continued to aid researchers after her death by helping scientists to understand the aging process of dolphins and how to better aid dolphins in captivity. Through National Dolphin Day and Nellie, we can further understand and celebrate dolphins as the intelligent creatures that they are.
Written by Kaitlyn Curtis, Flagler Senior
National Dolphin Day – April 14, 2023. https://nationaltoday.com/national-dolphin-day/#:~:text=U.S.,friendly%20mammals%20in%20the%20world.
Nellie – JU’s Official Mascot. https://judolphins.com/sports/2019/2/5/information-mascot-index.aspx
Nellie, world’s oldest dolphin, dies at Marineland. https://www.observerlocalnews.com/news/2014/may/02/nellie-worlds-oldest-dolphin-dies-marineland/
Whoa, Jacksonville University’s iconic mascot is now ‘Dr.’ Nellie. https://wavemagazineonline.com/whoa-jacksonville-universitys-mascot-is-now-dr-nellie/
Nellie the dolphin dies at Marineland Dolphin Adventure; beloved JU mascot awarded doctorate in 2013. https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/2014/05/02/nellie-dolphin-dies-marineland-dolphin-adventure/15796817007/