CERMAM : premier centre de réhabilitation pour dauphins en France

Le Projet Cermam,
premier centre de réhabilitation pour dauphins en France

Le projet CERMAM fut la première tentative de créer un centre de réhabilitation pour dauphins captifs en France.
Il s’agissait de sauver dans l’urgence Iris et Ivo de la mort au Zoo d’Anvers.
Après une autre tentative à l’île des Embiez, le projet fut abandonné. Quant à la piscine inoccupée de Port Saint Père, elle est aujourd’hui devenue le delphinarium de Planète Sauvage, qui détient notamment Océan, un jeune mâle né à Bruges.
On trouvera ici le texte fondateur en anglais, bien qu’essentiellement conçu par des acteurs belges et français. La WDC et même Ric O’Barry s’y associèrent un moment.
Le seul dauphin jamais « sauvé » par ce centre fut retrouvé sur une plage. Il mourut tragiquement quelques jours plus tard. 



November 99

We learned that CERMAM project stopped its collaboration with Port Saint Pere facility’s headoffice. A new project is now being elaborated by a scientific staff, with the same aim but situated in another place. L’Ile des Embiez, near the French Riviera, was one of theses suggested places. Let’s remind how usefull such a center could be for recently relased dophins saved from the jail.  

1 – Creation

A year ago, the Planète Sauvage (« Wild Planet ») zoo built facilities for a delphinarium.
The project was aborted, and these facilities were then handed to our non-profit organisation, Le Monde de Gaïa
(« Gaïa’s World »).

We signed a convention with the owner of the zoo to use these facilities for a new project, the CERMAM (European center for marine mammal rehabilitation).
These facilities, now renamed Cité Marine (« Marine City « ), thus constitute the first operational site of our CERMAM project.
The Cité Marine is a remarkable example of collaboration
between a private company, research centers and associations for
nature conservation.

The CERMAM will manage three facilities :

– The Cité Marine
– The Dolphins Sanctuary on a Mediterranean island
– Atlantis for the stranded seals on the French Atlantic coastline.

2 – Objectives

The Cité Marine has the following objectives:

– Take care of stranded dolphins found on French beaches.

– Temporarily accommodate dolphins coming out of delphinariums for evaluation before directing them to a rehabilitation program or put them in semi-freedom in the Dolphins Sanctuary.

– Act as an education and information center.

3 – Means

The convention we signed gives « Le Monde de Gaïa » the opportunity to be an european leader in conservation and protection of marine mammals :

The zoo makes available its personnel and its infrastructures.
The superficies is 2417 m2 in four tanks for a volume of almost 12000 m3. These facilities use seawater treated with ozone and bromine. We can accept between 6 and 10 dolphins. These facilities are located near the Atlantic coastline and constitute a wonderful tool for the scientists interested in the rehabilitation process.

4 – Concepts

4.1. General concepts

The public will discover the animals only through underwater observation rooms to avoid interactions that could interfere with the rehabilitation process. The observations could be direct, through portholes with one-way glass or indirect, with video cameras under and over the water. There will be no show for the visitors, but oral presentations of the rehabilitation process and the opportunity to watch the dolphins when we will feed them with live fishes. The dolphins will be hosted in our facilities only temporarily before orientation towards specialised sites.

4.2. Stranded dolphins

Within the framework of the French Stranding Network, leaded by the CRMM (Marine Mammal Research Center (CRMM in La Rochelle, France : http://crmm.univ-lr.fr/), the CERMAM is know able to take care of any dolphin stranded alive on the French coasts. These dolphins will not be visible to visitors during the phase of intensive care.

The stranded dolphins will be taken care of as  follows:

1. Transportation from stranding site to the CERMAM (either fully organised with CERMAM means or by sharing costs and organisation with local correspondents).

2. Housing in the hospital tank : feeding, search for eventual contagious and/or infectious diseases, intensive care.

3. Transfer in the main pool: monitoring and feeding. Verification of the ability to capture live fish.
Eventually, participation in research programs if they do not
interfere with the rehabilitation process.

4. Transfer to the release site for the final step of rehabilitation. Eventually, radio or satellite tracking after the final release.


4.3. Dolphins coming from delphinaria and aquaria

The CERMAM wishes to offer an alternative to small basins in
zoos for dolphins retired from delphinaria and seaworlds, when
they are ill or old, or when these center are closing or

The dolphins will be in the thanks of the Cité Marine only
for a temporarily and if our scientific committee consider that
it is too dangerous to release a particular dolphin, he will at
least be housed at our Mediterranean Sanctuary.

Once in the Cité Marine, the dolphins will be submitted to a
rigorous individual scientific evaluation, in order to be
objective and transparent when setting the aims of the process
applied to each dolphin :

– First evaluation and monitoring of the dolphin’s abilities.

– Quarantine phase : research of contagious and/or infectious diseases, application of relevant treatments.

– Transfer to the main pool : evaluation of the orientation criteria.

These historical, medical and behavioural parameters will allow us to decide of the future of each dolphin. At this stage,
dolphins will only be visible through portholes for the public.

* If the group of experts considers the criteria satisfying, orientation towards a rehabilitation program in the dolphin’s native waters, following a protocol that ensures adequate reconditioning from human dependence, and with a post-release tracking to ensure that the animal has regained the skills to survive in the wild.

* If not, transfer of the animal in a sea pen in the Mediterranean Sea (Dolphins Sanctuary of the CERMAM).

Note : It is unclear whether a captive dolphin can successfully return to the wild and forage for food, avoid predators and socially interact with wild dolphins. A prudent protocol is required to decide which dolphins are suitable candidates for release in the wild, and also we have to make a post-release tracking to ensure the dolphin is really able to survive in the wild.

Executif director of the Cermam – Cité Marine
Parc Planète Sauvage
La Chevalerie, 44710 Port St Père
Tel. et Fax.: (33) 2 40 31 54 08
E-mail : tarik.chekchak@wanadoo.fr

Dr Pierre Beaubrun : beaubrun@crit.univ-montp2.fr


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