Dolphin Exploitation Exposed

15/8/10

INVESTIGATOR DONAL MACINTYRE EXPOSES THE APPALLING EXPLOITATION OF TWO DOLPHINS

FOUR years ago Tom and Misha, two juvenile dolphins roamed the Mediterranean with a range of 1000km – today their home is a small crumbling pool surrounded by nightclubs and bars in middle of a Turkish resort favoured by Brits.

Captured from the wild four years ago, they arrived at the Dolphin Park, in Hisaronu, off the southern coast of Turkey, in a ‘Fruit and Veg’ van after an arduous four and a half hour journey over the mountains.

Then with the assistance of drinker from the Irish bar across the street they were dumped in the 11m by 22m pool. Traumatised, by the trip, the animals just bobbed up and down repetitively in a terrible expression of distress for their first five days in the pool.

Nonetheless, British tourists over the last two months have been paying £50 a go to swim with them for what many say is the fulfillment of a life long dream.

But they don’t realise that not only is it cruel and dangerous for the dolphins but that their own health is a risk. The pool has been condemned for human use by the local health authorities and buts its owners flout the edict with impunity.

I was there last weekend to witness a local health official reissue the order only to see Brits line up to swim with the dolphins within minutes of his exit.

Rhys Shead, from Essex, was there with his parents. “It is dream come true”, he told me. “It did seem a bit cruel because my hotel pool is bigger”. This week, he was planning to go for a health check up after I told him the water quality was injurious to human health. “That has put a bit a dampener on the holiday, he said.

The Dolphin Park is a magnet for tourists here but even the local bar owners are happy to state the obvious. “Its practically in my back yard. There is loud music playing here all night and until five in the morning, and that can’t be right for the dolphins”, one told me.

It was a sad a pathetic sight to observe the sides of the pool standing up to three feet above the surrounding pavement as subsidence from the previous night’s rain turned it into a health and safety nightmare.

The very integrity of the pool is in doubt. I am no architect but I would bet a wedge that the wall of the pool won’t survive to the end of the September. The famously heavy winter rains here will surely collapse the walls completely.

The bored dolphins looked bored, and tired and one of the animals Misha appeared to be listing, unable to achieve stable buoyancy – a real cause of concern to animal experts.

You could not construct a worse home for these extraordinary animals and the story of their arrival here is so laughably amateurish that it simply sounds invented.

My wife, Ameera, used to be a dolphin trainer, before she ended her love affair with the seductive occupation because of concerns over the treatment of the animals. By my side, she noticed that Tom and Misha were being fed frozen Mackerel something which could cause a range of health problems for them.

“I have heard stories of cruelty to dolphins and but I have never head of dolphins being held in worse conditions than this.”

In contrast to the apparent ineptness of the Turkish authorities, the fight against this Dolphin Park has been led by a group of British residents called the Dolphin Angels. The have organised protest marches and mobilised locals and co-ordinated an international campaign to rescue Tom and Misha from the pool and to attempt to try and rehabilitate them.

All the major tour operators including Thompson and TUI, support their boycott, but still, Brits, Russian and some local tourists continue to keep this unseemly business afloat.

“We have fought hard. It is so harsh and unfair. We are so concerned for the dolphins. If they stay there any longer they will not survive”, Nichola Chapman, the group’s leader told me. The Dolphin Angels brought in the assistance of the international animal charity, Born Free to join their fight rescue the animals.

They have been very keen to test the water quality and to give medical tests to the animals. Reluctantly, the Dolphin Park owners let the world renown vet John Knight, conduct blood tests on just one of the animals, Tom. In the Mediterranean dusk, Knight and expert handler Mark Stephens helped lift Tom out of the water onto the side of the pool.

“What struck me was how calm Tom, is. His respiration is steady even during the test, which is a real testimony to his character and his personality. He is a beautiful animal”.

While the test results are being analysed it is clear according to John Knight that the animals are in stable but declining condition. “

“For the moment it appears that the animals are in good enough condition to be re-homed and rehabilitated into the wild, but in this water, in these conditions, that can’t be guaranteed for very long. “

Born Free are trying to persuade the Dolphin Park to transfer the animals into their care. The charities have found a beautiful ocean wild life reserve to house the animals to prepare them for rehabilitation, if they can do a deal. But the ownership of the animals is cloudy and those caring for them now were demanding $360,000 for their release. This is a price, which the Dolphin Angels and Born Free refuse to pay.

There is a glimmer of hope however, that the Government of Turkey, key to build on David Cameron’s support to join the EU may intervene on animal welfare ground and sequester the animals and hand them over to Born Free for their long term care. For as long though as Tom and Misha remain in this grubby tourist puddle, the fight for their release will continue.

Why I left my dream job as dolphin trainer by Ameera MacIntyre, wife of Donal MacIntyre

It all seemed very seductive job, sun, sea and training dolphins in the beautiful azure coastline of the Mayan Riviera. I had always dreamed of swimming with dolphins as a child and it was number four on my list of ‘100 things-to-do-before- I-die.’ But my hungry drive and ambition meant that I not only wanted to swim with them, I wanted to be a trainer.

I lived in Mexico for six years and when the marine park opened down my road I couldn’t wait to go and see the animals and eventually after much begging and persuasion with the marine park’s CEO I began my alluring path as a marine mammal trainer.

I started off shadowing the senior trainer and as I grew familiar with the animals’ personalities and confidence with the training procedures I was given more responsibilities with the animals. But the glitzy glamour of being a dolphin trainer is far removed from reality – I came back reeking of fish and covered in scales…and my housemates could smell me coming even before I put the key in the door.

Over time the cracks started to appear in my perfect job. Although there was an abundance of love and affection for the dolphins I was disturbed at how hard the dolphins had to drudgery operate.

The animals were sometimes working 12 hour days with no real breaks, no holidays 365 days a year. If they weren’t entertaining the tourists they were with their trainers and vets. The dolphins began to show signs of frustration with aggression, and the random cases of ‘accidents’ became more common, tourists were bitten, there were broken bones, dolphin deaths and even cases of animals self harming.

These were quickly covered up and became conversational contraband as well as an escalating expense for the park. However the marine park was also making an incredible turnover- and it there soon mention of bringing in other dolphins from Cuba to expand the frequency of swimming programmes – more animals meant more profit. There is a damaging public perception that dolphins in marine parks are born in captivity.

Most people engaging in swim programmes with Dolphins have no idea that these animals were once free in the wild and the question of where the animals came from is far from their mind. Whilst some dolphin parks obtain their dolphins legally there is an explosion of illegal trade to meet the demand. I wasn’t allowed to ask any questions about their capture – and who the traders were but I quickly learned this was another thing to add to list of things not spoken about.

During a hurricane one of the dolphins was killed – it was battered to death against its enclosure unable to escape the forceful waves. We all grieved for this loss of an extraordinary creature we were all attached to like a family member. That is the moment I knew I could not be part of this ugly industry anymore, and my heart sank when I knew she was going to be replaced with a dolphin from Cuba.

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/193195/Investigator-Donal-MacIntyre-exposes-the-appalling-exploitation-of-two-dolphins

 

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From Dusk 'til Dawn
An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement

© Keith Mann
puppypincher@yahoo.co.uk