Conservationists Win Trial Re Dolphinarium

he Bavarian Higher Administrative Court yesterday was the second authority to rule in favour of dolphin conservationists: The city of Nuremberg, as the provider of the city's zoo, had to provide access to its records in its dolphinarium's husbandry, breeding and dolphin death rates. As a consequence the legitimisation of Nuremberg's dolphinarium is threatened.

37 Dead Since Opening

Nuremberg's dolphinarium currently hosts six bottlenose dolphins, 37 dolphins have perished since the opening, 9 babies since the intensified breeding program started in 2004 alone, the daily "Münchener Abendzeitung" wrote.

For almost five years the conservationists from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) have campaigned to achieve the disclosure of the data and the closure of the dolphinarium. 'It is an outdated concept which in the 21st century is illegitimate', Nicolas Entrup, CEO of WDCS Germany, was quoted in an interview with the German weekly "Focus".

Stop the Proposed Dolphinarium in Gibraltar!

According to the WDCS's homepage the judgement is a first within a European member state, and could also have an impact on the EU as a whole. It is "a landmark decision which represents a victory for transparency over such institutions for the public and shows clearly that environmental protection doesnt stop at the doorstep of zoos," lawyer Inga Berg, who represents the WDCS, was quoted on the website of WDCS.

The court ruling comes one month before the 24m € expansion of Nuremberg's dolphinarium is due to be completed: The Nuremberg zoo promotes the new open air lagoon as a "structured habitat" for sea lions and dolphins, featuring 5.4 million litres of sea water, and a depth of between 50cm and seven meters. It also intends to increase the number of dolphins from six up to 14.

Conservationists argue that even the new infrastructure couldn't guarantee species-appropriate husbandry and that the zoo's breeding programme is non-sustainable. A claim, which is supported by the death rates and the scientific statement of Dr Christian Schulze from the university "Ruhr-Universität Bochum".
According to the press agency "Das Presseportal" Dr Schulze is convinced that the outlay of the new Nuremberg dolphinarium is much too confined to at least permit thinking about species-appropriate husbandry.

The scientific findings: Clashes, Infections & Injuries

As written by the weekly "Spiegel", keeping dolphins in zoos has been a controversial subject for a long time. Behavioural biologist Karsten Brensing from WDCS stresses in Spiegel's online edition that many criteria of Nuremberg's dolphinarium aren't species-appropriate: Apart from being too small for the mammals, it had small passages and corners, which dolphins tend to avoid in the wild. As dolphins are unable to swim backwards, the dolphins had to be trained to go through these passages.

A danger was also posed by the dolphinarium's walls: Since dolphins start to swim right after being born, they are prone to have – partly fatal – collisions with the walls. Furthermore, natural conflicts between male young and older specimens could not be diffused easily as there was no space to retreat, says Brensing.
He also highlighted in "Spiegel" online that very strict hygiene procedures were necessary in order to prevent the dolphins from catching infections – but it was impossible to implement them due to the extensive contact with humans – especially as Nuremberg also planned to introduce dolphin therapy.

Import of Wild Dolphins via Spain

CEO of WDCS Entrup isn't happy with the origins of most kept dolphins. In "Focus" he explains that some 250 dolphins are held in captivity in Europe, 16 of them in Germany. Many of those originate from the waters around Cuba, After their capture the dolphins are exported to the EU with a special permit - for e.g. conservational breeding. Most animals are exported to Spain – the country, which according to Entrup, supplies most other European countries with the mammals.

Dinosaur: More and More Dolphinarum Closures

Originally, Germany hosted nine dolphinariums, six of them have shut down already. One more is to follow in 2012, writes "Das Presseportal", this will leave two: one in Duisburg and one in Nuremberg.

New Regulations to Come

Currently, Germany's responsible federal ministry is working to improve the policy for dolphin husbandry, says "Das Presseportal". The advice from Dr Schulze will be taken into consideration, and the "Forum for Whale and Dolphin Protection" (WDSF) has been asked to take part in the creation, it adds.
Should this policy come into effect, the remaining two dolphinariums might have to close as well.