Six out of Germany’s nine dolphinaria — facilities for exhibiting dolphins, whales and porpoises for profit — have closed over the past two decades. The dolphins from the six closed facilities were either transferred to one of the three remaining dolphinaria or, in some cases, transported out of the country.
But what is needed is to close all dolphinaria, period.
Noting that the global captivity industry threatens populations of wild whales and dolphins and inflicts needless suffering on them, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) is “working for a world where whales and dolphins are no longer subjected to this cruelty,” by calling for tougher regulations to protect these animals from capture and trade and for increasing the public’s understanding of the real impact of captivity for whales and dolphins.
Currently, twelve EU states – Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom – do not keep dolphins and whales in captivity. Germany is one of the fifteen that does. Some 35 dolphinaria in the EU display a reported 289 small whales, dolphins and porpoises. The WDCS is seeking to make the entire EU a dolphinarium-free zone: Keeping these cetaceans in captivity “violates EU legislation that is supposed to protect” them.
Dolphinaria in Germany
The site of one of the remaining dolphinaria in Germany, the Allwetterzoo Muenster, has announced that it will be closing its dolphinarium at the end of 2012. But the other two sites have been making renovations to their facilities that suggest they have no plans of shutting down their dolphinaria. The Zoo Duisburg recently added a new roof to its dolphinarium and the Tiergarten Nuremberg has invested 24 billion euros in a new outdoor “dolphin lagoon.” As the WDCS says, while the Tiergarten Nuremberg claims that “it will display the animals in a ‘natural environment,’ it is hard to imagine a concrete tank resembling the oceans in any way.” The zoo also offers Dolphin Assisted Therapy (whose effects are debatable; it is also not certain what adverse effects such therapy has on dolphins).
In 2011, the Appeal Court in Munich granted the WDCS access to all records regarding the “display and husbandry of captive dolphins” at the Nuremberg Zoo. Zoo personnel sought to limit such access: What might they not want the public to know about the treatment of dolphins in captivity?
The continued existence of dolphinaria in Germany is all the more appalling as the country is party to ASCOBANS (Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas), whose goal is to “maintain and achieve favourable conservation status for small cetaceans throughout the agreement area.”
As the WDCS says, captivity is not conservation. Dolphins are thought to be the second-most intelligent animals on earth after humans. If we are so “smart,” how can we still imprison whales and dolphins in cement basins?
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