Bruges dolfinarium must be closed

  • by: Yvon Godefroid
  • recipient: Yvon Godefroid, Responsible person, Comitee for a Delphinarium Free Belgium
Let's close the Bruges dolfinarium
Campaign for a Dolphinarium-free Belgium
At a time when Belgium, more than ever before, could make its influence felt on the European stage, it would be a great achievement if this country could set an example once again on a question of ethics and end this genuine abuse of animals by refusing to have a dolphinarium on its territory.
It should be noted that in fact since the closure of the pools in Antwerp in 1998, there has been a controversial pool in action in the city of Bruges as part of the Boudewijn amusement park.
Numerous wild dolphins have been wrenched from the ocean and ended up confined under the grey concrete dome of this theme park.
How many? Impossible to really know: it seems that no official account has ever been published on the arrivals and departures of these cetaceans to and from this deadly swimming pool.

We do know however from reliable sources that Allan, born in the wild around 1963, and 'acquired' by Harderwijck in 1974, died in Bruges, suffocated under burning beams during the great fire there on 5th August 1988. Kiana, Oshun, and Jasperina, his three companions, died at his side suffering the same fate. In their turn other dolphins died later, eaten away by mold, gnawed away by the chlorine, exhausted from lack of sun or by depression.
Year after year the pool became more depleted…
It appears that ten dolphins are still surviving there in 2004.
Tex, the "stalion", is now in Antibes Marineland.

As for the unhappy dolphins born every year in this grim prison - three more were born at the end of 2003 - one by one they are torn away from their mothers straight after weaning and sent to a pool somewhere out-of-the-way in Portugal or elsewhere, where they swim in a 'petting pool' with tourists.

What do our children learn about the life of dolphins, of their culture, their hunting habits, their languages, their amazing intelligence or their enormous brain with a mathematical ability which surpasses our own, when they go on a school trip to Bruges?

Nothing of course, absolutely nothing, only the fact that these 'non-humans' can act like clowns and imitate us when they are forced to do so through hunger, isolation, physical blows or boredom. The sole education which this marine circus provides is to demonstrate that Nature is made to be subjected by man and the dolphins made to play ball.

It is high time that Belgium finally denounced this pointless, obsolete, cruel and destructive American import loud and clear, like they did in England as long ago as 1986.

Pointless: since the 1970s dolphinariums have been widely discredited for the purposes of scientific study or the preservation of species The only useful way of observing, of getting to know, and of protecting wild dolphins is to go out to the open sea where they live. This is what serious scientists now do.

Obsolete for the purposes of education, as dolphinariums only give us a humiliating and partial account of cetacean-clowns which is a throw back worthy of the 19th century's perception of animals. There are enough films, photos and even reasonably priced trips nowadays (wild dolphins live all over the European coast) that we can dispense with these aquatic prisons.

Cruel for no pool, no lagoon could ever replace life in the wild for these highly sociable and intelligent creatures who become weak in captivity and die there before their time at the end of a grim life. The slow agony and duly recorded life of the unhappy dolphin Iris will stay in our minds for a long time as an example of how life in a pool represents a moral and physical torture for cetaceans who are put there and subjected to force.

Destructive for the environment, for the births in the pool do not fulfil their promise of supplying new generations of dolphins; meanwhile hundreds of new pools which open all over the world continually need a water supply, and the incessant capture of young females and their babies which takes place every day in every ocean will, in time, cause exhaustion of the genetic pool and therefore the progressive extinction of wild dolphin populations.

To keep such an "aquatic circus" open in Belgium is a way of guaranteeing that this senseless practice will continue, not only in Europe, but in the rest of the world. By legislating against all forms of cetacean captivity, Belgium would encourage other European nations to do the same and to understand once and for all that dolphins are highly intelligent creatures blessed with their own culture, one that is adapted for swimming in the open sea and not in concrete ditches.

For these reasons we propose that the Council for the Protection of Animals in Belgium

demands that the managers of the Bruges Dolphinarium submit to them all relevant detailed information concerning new acquisitions, births, deaths, the transfers carried out to and from Harderwijk or Portugal, up-to-date reports on the state of health of the detained animals, their names and origin etc.

determines the best way in which the Dolphinarium at Bruges could be closed down within the shortest possible time

defines the measures to be taken so that the dolphins detained at the moment in this establishment could eventually be returned to the open sea, or at the very least, benefit in the future from a more decent reception in an open air lagoon such as the one at Harderwijk, which they would agreed to enlarge.

This call is very urgent : our old Belgian facility was just bought by a Spanish consortium named ASPRO OCIO.
Founded in 1991, this huge financial group owns 11 marine parks and aquatic leisure centers in Spain, located on touristic sea side resorts as Canary Islands(Aquasur), Costa del Sol, Costa Brava (Catalyuna Parc, where dolphin assisted therapy is intensively practised and which sent recently two sick captive dolphins to Marineland Antibes France) or Costa Dorada.

ASPRO recently acquired Alpamare Park in Switzerland, six leisure aquatic parks in France (Aqualand of Sainte Maxime, Cap D'Agde, and so on), one marine park in Algarve Portugal, the Barcelona's aquarium, two other aquariums in England and finally, Boudewijn Park in Bruges, Belgium.

In 2002, Aspro Ocio proclaimed a commercial benefite of 96,1 million euros and describes itself as the absolute leader of marine parks in Europe. The group Aspro Ocio is responsible for the life of 22.500 captive animals in 2003. Among them, dolphins and Siberian tigers.

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