[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] WDCS finds EU falls short on keeping dolphins, whales


EU member states urged to stop 'shocking' dolphin cruelty

By Martin Banks - 21st June 2011

Greek MEP Kriton Arsenis has called for a "phasing out" of all dolphinariums in Europe.

His demand comes after a "shocking" new report highlighting the plight of dolphins used for "entertainment."

The report, by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), says that not one of the 34 dolphinarium in 14 EU member states currently complies with the necessary legal animal welfare requirements.

These include those set out by the EU zoos directive and the wildlife trade regulation, both of which aim to protect whales and dolphins in captivity.

The report, compiled in association with the Born Free Foundation, says that those member states that keep such animals in captivity contravene regulations by failing to conform to criteria relating to conservation, education and animal welfare.

The 14 member states display a reported 286 small whales, dolphins and porpoises, it says.

It said that while the average age of a dolphin in the wild is 45 years, 53 per cent of dolphins die within three months of being kept in captivity for displays in zoos.

In other cases, they go blind or develop disease, it said. Dolphins are forced to swim between 40 and 100 miles per day in small pools and also have to travel long distances.

Speaking at a news conference in parliament, Arsenis said, "When I read this report I was very shocked.

"What is happening is quite brutal. There has been growing awareness regarding the special nature of cetaceans amongst governments, scientists and the public, it is thus particularly sad that despite all this knowledge on cetaceans such a report on the dolphinaria within the EU is not only necessary but also reveals some disturbing results."

He added, "The findings show that urgent action is necessary and I am calling for immediate implementation of the zoo directive and also a phasing out of dolphinarium in Europe, including live dolphin shows."

His comments were echoed by Cathy Williamson, of the WDCS, who said, "These commercially driven, circus-style shows may seem like fun but the truth is much sadder.

"Although there are a number of different pieces of legislation safeguarding wild whales and dolphins in the EU, only the zoos directive provides captive whales and dolphins with any form of EU-wide protection.

"By requiring that member states ensure the zoos in their countries operate for the benefit of biodiversity, zoos (including dolphinaria) must meet certain conditions in terms of conservation and education.

"They must keep the animals under conditions that provide them with their natural biological needs - which is simply impossible for whales and dolphins."

Daniel Turner, of the Born Free Foundation, said the findings were "hugely significant".

He added, "So often, these facilities, and the hundreds of marine mammals held within them, are forgotten.

"The WDCS aims to ensure this is not the case and that member states recognise that dolphinariums, like other zoos, must not only abide by national zoo laws but must ensure they provide all their animals with their species-specific needs."

In a report it branded as "damning", the WDCS found that dolphinaria in the EU are "making little to no" contribution to conservation and that they may be detrimental to the conservation of wild whales and dolphins.

It says a "significant" number of dolphins in captivity die from capture shock, pneumonia, intestinal disease, ulcers, chlorine poisoning, and other stress-related illnesses.

"In many tanks within dolphinaria the water is full of chemicals as well as bacteria, causing many health problems in dolphins including blindness.

"Although marine mammals do breed in captivity, the birth rate is not nearly as successful as the one in the wild, with high infant mortality rates.

"Many marine parks subject their mammals to hunger so they will perform for their food.

"Confined animals who abuse themselves, for example, banging their heads against the walls, are creating stimuli which their environment cannot supply.

"Dolphins in captivity tend to develop stereotypical behaviour such as swimming in a repetitive circle pattern, with eyes closed and in silence because of boredom and confinement.

"When trapped together, males often become agitated and domineering. This causes an increased number of unprovoked attacks on each other and the trainers."

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