Nellie the bottlenose dolphin who starred in several TV shows in the 50s and 60s and served as Jacksonville University's mascot has died.
Nellie was born at Marineland in February 1953. She became an icon in the 50s and 60s, inspiring millions to care about dolphins and their environment.
Last year she was awarded an honorary doctorate's degree from Jacksonville University.
Nellie's health began to decline recently and she was no longer able to care for herself. The veterinary team at Marineland made the decision to euthanize her.
"We know that she's had a great life, she's had great care throughout her entire life and so we kind of knew it was coming," said Kurt Allen, general manager with Marineland Dolphin Adventure.
Nellie was 61 years old, meaning she outlived the average life-expectancy of free-ranging dolphins.
She also helped researchers learn a lot about older dolphins, research that can be used when teams need to rescue them.
"She has done more to open the eyes of people of what's going on out in the wild just by being here and being able to showcase," Allen said.
Marineland will hold a public celebration on May 15. You can share condolences and memories of Nellie on Marineland's Facebook page.
Those condolences have been pouring in from across the world, which is no surprise to Kurt Allen and his staff.
"It's really a testament to the old girl and who she was and how many people really knew her and how she impacted people's lives."