Keep Dolphin Tanks out of Armenia

  • by: Armenian Environmental Network
  • recipient: President of Armenia - Serzh Sargsyan, Armenian Minister of Nature Protection - Aram Harutyunyan, Mayor of Yerevan - Gagik Beglaryan

We appeal to the government of Armenia to immediately halt construction of a dolphinarium in Komitas Park in Yerevan. The confinement of dolphins in this facility would be both inhumane and illegal. Many famous and world-renown Armenian figures are buried in the Pantheon at the park therefore a dolphinarium at this site would also be culturally and aesthetically inappropriate.

It is our understanding that four bottlenose dolphins will be imported from Ukraine for the facility. Bottlenose dolphins are listed in Ukraine's Red Book of endangered animals and plants. We oppose the capture and confinement of cetaceans for the purpose of public entertainment.

During capture and confinement, which is often a violent affair, these wild marine mammals suffer shock and stress due to the manner in which they are ripped from their natural, dynamic, ecologically rich surroundings and housed in enclosed, sterile, unnatural environments. Dolphins in captivity often suffer from ulcers and act out aggressively towards conspecifics and humans. Captive dolphins have been injured and even killed in such interactions and people, including experienced trainers, have been injured. 

Dolphins are wild animals and like other cetaceans, are highly intelligent, sentient creatures with complex societies. They use a form of biosonar, but in captivity their sonar bounces off the walls of their small, concrete tanks. Once confined in aquarium-type exhibits, the animals are not only denied their freedom, but they are also prevented from carrying out natural behaviors such as roaming over 40 miles per day, catching live prey and interacting with their pod mates.

The climate of Armenia is absolutely not suitable for dolphins or any other foreign marine life. Armenia has very hot, dry summers and harsh winters. Additionally the altitude of Armenia is drastically higher than that of Ukraine. These climatic and geographical factors could be very dangerous for the health of the dolphins and other marine mammals. It is impossible to meet the needs of dolphins in captivity generally, and in the proposed dolphinarium in Yerevan particularly.

In the case of the Komitas Park facility, the dolphins would share a meager tank - five meters deep and with a radius of 18 meters - with one sea lion and two seals. This is unacceptable, as it will undoubtedly adversely affect the mental and physical health of the animals.

Finally, we are disappointed that a project with the dolphin importer, Nerum Company, whose activities are highly controversial and possibly even illegal in Ukraine, was allowed to proceed. Many of the dolphins in Ukrainian facilities are believed not to have the proper documentation. These animals should have never received clearance for shipment to Armenia. 

We urge Armenia to keep dolphin tanks out of the country and join the list of countries, including Chile, Cyprus and Costa Rica, who have taken a stand against such facilities. Keeping dolphins is very controversial worldwide for the reasons stated above; therefore, introducing such a facility in Armenia will bring negative international attention to the country. We therefore implore Armenia to consider the welfare of the dolphins, as well as the reputation of the country, and to immediately halt plans for a dolphin center in Yerevan.  


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