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dolphins at dolphinariums around the world

Should you swim with Dolphins?

The number of people who want to swim with dolphins is at an all time high. Fuelled by a spate of TV programmes showing TV personalities getting in the water with them, and revealing how friendly dolphins can be, many people now have the desire to do the same. 

An understandable love for dolphins may encourage people to want to get close to them. This desire may stem from the belief that close contact with these special animals can provide, at the very least, a release from day-to-day stresses and boredom and, at the other extreme, some sort of miracle cure for physical and mental illness, and disability. Such beliefs have helped encourage the growth of interaction programmes by both commercial interests and alternative therapists.

The recent popularity for swimming with dolphins, appealing as it first seems, is spawning a whole new industry. Recent news reports have shown dolphins taken from the wild and kept in captivity, purely for the "swimming with dolphins" experience, and for the money they generate for their owners.

Do you remember the days when animals were kept by circuses and made to perform tricks to earn their keep?

Do you ever get the feeling history is repeating itself?

Dolphins to the Rescue

Surfer Todd Endris needed a miracle. The shark — a monster great white that came out of nowhere — had hit him three times, peeling the skin off his back and mauling his right leg to the bone.

That’s when a pod of bottlenose dolphins intervened, forming a protective ring around Endris, allowing him to get to shore, where quick first aid provided by a friend saved his life.

The attack occurred on Tuesday, Aug. 28, just before 11 a.m. at Marina State Park off Monterey, Calif., where the 24-year-old owner of Monterey Aquarium Services had gone with friends for a day of the sport they love. Nearly four months later, Endris, who is still undergoing physical therapy to repair muscle damage suffered during the attack, is back in the water and on his board in the same spot where he almost lost his life.

“It came out of nowhere. There’s no warning at all.

Maybe I saw him a quarter second before it hit me. But no warning. It was just a giant shark,” Endris said. “It just shows you what a perfect predator they really are.”

That attack shredded his back, literally peeling the skin back, he said, “like a banana peel.” But because Endris’ stomach was pressed to the surfboard, his intestines and internal organs were protected.

The dolphins, which had been cavorting in the surf all along, showed up then. They circled him, keeping the shark at bay, and enabled Endris to get back on his board and catch a wave to the shore.

Our finned friends 
No one knows why dolphins protect humans, but stories of the marine mammals rescuing humans go back to ancient Greece, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

A year ago in New Zealand, the group reports, four lifeguards were saved from sharks in the same way Endris was — by dolphins forming a protective ring.

How do we repay them?




Dolphinariums within the E.U

A dolphinarium is an aquarium for dolphins. The dolphins are usually kept in a large pool, though occasionally they may be kept in pens in the open sea, either for research or for public performances. Some dolphinariums consist of one pool where dolphins perform for the public, others are part of larger parks, such as marine mammal parks, zoos or theme parks, keeping other animals and having other attractions as well.

While cetaceans have been held in captivity since the 1860s, the first commercial dolphinarium was opened only in 1938. Their popularity increased rapidly until the 1960s. Since the 1970s, increasing concern for animal welfare lead to stricter regulation, which in several countries ultimately resulted in the closure of all dolphinariums over the past decades. Despite this trend, dolphinariums are still widely spread in Europe, Japan and North America.

The most common species of dolphin kept in dolphinariums are Bottlenose Dolphins as they are relatively easy to train and have a long life span in captivity. While the trade of dolphins is internationally regulated, other aspects of keeping dolphins in captivity such as the minimum size and characteristics of pools vary among countries. Though animal welfare is perceived to have improved significantly over the last few decades, many animal rights and welfare groups still consider keeping dolphins captive a form of animal abuse.

Recently countries such as Japan, Egypt and Turkey have suffered adverse publicity due to the development of their dolphinarium facilities. Though any exploitation / abuse of dolphins should be condemned, maybe we should be taking a closer look at our own record before accusing others.

We are lucky, the UK hasn't’t suffered a dolphinarium for many years. Flamingo Land dolphinarium in Yorkshire the last of its genre, closed on March 8th 1993. However there is no present legislation to prohibit the opening of a dolphinarium in the UK and again exploit dolphins and the natural desire people have to see such magnificent oceanic mammals.

In 1985 after concerns raised about the care of cetaceans in the UK by various animal and environmental groups the then Department of the Environment, now part of DEFRA, commissioned biologists Dr Margaret Klinowska and Dr Susan Brown to research and review the keeping of these animals in UK zoos and aquaria.

Klinowska and Brown's report 'A Review Of Dolphinaria' was published in 1986 with various recommendations to be implemented by those holding captive cetaceans by no later than 1993. The authors did have the authority to recommend that cetaceans should not be held in captive care if their research supported such a position. However it did not and they maintained that these animals could be successfully kept in animal collections provided they were given the right conditions.

One of these conditions was related to pool dimensions. Whilst some facilities complied with pool size and area none reached or exceeded the minimum depth standards for the species held; for bottle-nose dolphins this depth was approximately 6 metres (20 feet). Ironically Marineland Morecambe one of the first facilities to display these animals had a main pool which was 5.53 metres (18 feet) deep with Flamingoland's main pool having a depth of 4.6 metres (15 feet).

However by this time only three dolphinaria remained and all would have to rebuild and/or extend their existing facilities to be able to publicly display animals after 1993.

Flamingoland was the last facility to house dolphins and did plan to build an extension to the existing dolphinarium to comply with the new keeping regulations but this did not come to fruition and the dolphins were moved to aquaria in Europe.

So should we feel complacent?

No! Anyone within the E. U should be ashamed of our overall record on the abuse of dolphins, either captured from the wild or breed in captivity. Below is a list of Dolphinriums in European countries which should know better. I was quite appalled (a) at the overall number and (b) the counties that still allow this form of abuse to continue.

Boudewijn Seapark dolphinarium
Port Saint Pere
Castelnuovo del Garda

  Lithuanian Sea Museum Klaipeda
Bahar ic-Caghaq
Guia Algarve



  Kolmårdens Djurpark Kolmårdens
  Connyland Lipperswil
The Netherlands    

Dolphins have been declared the world’s second most intelligent creatures after humans (not sure that is the right way around), with scientists suggesting they are so bright that they should be treated as “non-human persons”.

Studies into dolphin behavior have highlighted how similar their communications are to those of humans and that they are brighter than chimpanzees. These have been backed up by anatomical research showing that dolphin brains have many key features associated with high intelligence. The researchers argue that their work shows it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing.

Yet within the E. U we subject them to conditions, which if compared against humans behavior, would not even be allowed to be inflicted on the worst criminals within our society.

Any animal capable of performing the above is a better animal than me and should not be kept in captivity. (sorry about the music)

If you visit any of the website's for these dolphinariums you will read the patronisingly accounts of how well their dolphins are kept and how long they live compared to those in the wild. How you could ever compare a captive breed dolphin to a pet pussy cat, just shows how removed from the truth these people really are.

So before we criticise other countries around the world

We should

    • Ban the importation of all cetaceans taken from the wild into the E. U.
    • Cease all captive breeding programs of Cetaceans within the E. U.
    • Phase out all Dolphinariums within the E. U
    Make Dolpninariums illegal Now.
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