03/05/07 Aquapark Yes, Dolphinarium No!

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Plans for the construction of a dolphinarium are against the Animal Protection Act, which prohibits all use of wild animals in entertainment, as well as against Croatia's efforts to protect marine mammals

- Animals Friends protests against the construction of the dolphinarium at Vodnjan and against keeping marine mammals in confinement

Near the Croatian town of Vodnjan, the Hungarian investor Aqua Adora plans to construct an aquapark called Aquamania, which would include a dolphinarium.

Even though the project for building the aquapark – worth around 8 million euro – will be supported by many, the construction of a dolphinarium on its premises is highly reprehensible. A dolphinarium is one of the most cruel ways of using wild animals and its construction should be prevented by all means: not only on the account of the Animal Protection Act, which explicitly forbids using wild animals in circuses and other types of entertainment, but also because of Croatia's reputation as a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Moreover, Croatia is a contracting party of ACCOBAMS, an agreement that opposes keeping marine mammals in captivity, and a member of CITES, which in 2006 announced the project of founding a dolphin protectorate at Mali Losinj – the first reserve of the sort in the Mediterranean – thus clearly stating its position and orientation regarding the preservation and protection of marine mammals.

Croatia should not endorse or permit the construction of a dolphinarium regardless of whether the dolphins have been wild caught or bred in captivity. There is absolutely no justification for keeping dolphins in confinement, especially in aquaparks, which can offer so many various and exquisite ways of enjoying the pleasures of the sea. In dolphinaria, these mammals are forced to perform tricks and entertain the visitors. Dolphins are very sociable animals and usually swim together in their ocean habitat, in groups ranging from 3 or 10 to as many as 100 dolphins. They are used to travel great distances, swimming up to 40 miles a day. Enclosing dolphins in small tanks equals enclosing a human into a bathtub. The stress caused by confinement also weakens their immunity system, which – despite the alleged advantages of veterinarian care and regular meals – frequently leads to illness and even death.

The future dolphinarium also intends to earn money by offering its visitors the opportunity of swimming with the dolphins, which is dangerous both for the humans and for the captivated dolphins. In their insatiable greed, the owners of the tanks and the swimming programs would not tell the participants that they are actually engaging in a highly hazardous type of entertainment. Certain diseases can spread from dolphins to humans, such as salmonella. There is a possibility that the natural predator might hurt someone. Owing to the stress caused by their life in captivity and the fact that they are deprived of all possibilities of escape, the dolphins are exposed to collisions with careless swimmers. Several years ago, the authorities in the USA prohibited all "swimming programs," concerned about the health of the dolphins because of wounds inflicted by the swimmers.

In the wild, dolphins can live as long as 25-50 years of age. However, in aquaparks, these marine mammals rarely live longer than 10 years. More than half of them die within the first two years of captivity, whereas the rest live only six years on the average. These reasons should be sufficient for the Croatian authorities to prohibit keeping dolphins in captivity under any circumstances.

Therefore, Animal Friends has written to the City Council of Vodnjan, asking that the dolphinarium plans should be completely erased from the project of the future aquapark. Similar petitions have been sent to the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Water Management.

Animal Friends is of the opinion that the citizens of Croatia should be proud of their sea and the dolphins in it, rather than entertain themselves with captive animals. Therefore, we expect that the authorities should completely prevent the construction of a dolphinarium at Vodnjan.

It may sound unbelievable, but these plans for building a dolphinarium are being considered precisely in the year that the Convention on Migratory Species, an intergovernmental treaty signed under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Program, has called the Year of the Dolphin. These magnificent creatures belong to the open sea, where they can live their lives in a way that nature has destined them for. They should not be turned into captives in narrow tanks, where they are forced to spend all of their shortened and artificial lives to swim with humans or perform tricks for them.

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