Bruges Dolfinarium, the latest belgian dolphin jail
At the end of September 2005, one year after the huge and successful street demo we organized in front of Bruges Sea Park http://www.boudewijnpark.be/ owned by Aspro Ocio on July 11 2004, https://www.dauphinlibre.be/bruges-dolfinarium/ alongside with Ric O’Barry and many other dolphins’ friends, one year after the « pseudo-expertise » of a captivity defender Thierry Jauniaux claiming that everything was all right in this facility, Belgian associations « Gaia » and « Dauphins Libres » took the decision to invite Dr Toni Frohoff in order to visit Boudewijn Seapark Dolfinarium in Bruges and to check the REAL psychological and health situation of its nine dolphins (3 founders, 6 captive-born) on a scientific basis. Here below, you’ll find a rough translation – sorry for my pidgin english – of the communiqué Gaia sent to the press.
Toni’s » Report on Observations and Preliminary assessment at Boudewijn Seapark Dolphinarium in Brugge, Belgium » available on demand : Ann.Degreef@gaia.be to get the full version.
«The Boudewijn Seapark dolphinarium in Bruges (Belgium) is certainly not a dolphins’ paradise, despite of the declarations of its owners. On the contrary, the situation is very alarming. Their wellbeing is strongly disturbed. The dolphins suffer from important and chronic stress and from lack of space. These conditions increase mutual agressions, involving wounds and reduced health. Because of boredom and frustration, the dolphins express many abnormal and disturbed behaviors » .
These conclusions arise from the report of an American biologist specialized in marine mammals behavior, Dr. Toni Frohoff, internationally recognized as a scientific authority in the field of dolphins ‘wellbeing.
On september 28 2005, Dr Frohof presented her first preliminary report about Bruges dolphinarium during a press confrence in Brussels, in order to inform the initiators of the « Law Resolution of the Belgian Parliament on dolphinarium », the representatives of the Minister in charge of Animal welfare and the Belgian press, Rudy De Motte.
According to Dr. Frohoff, the health and wellbeing of the dolphins are strongly threatened in this dolphinarium whose infrastructure is not adapted to satisfy the physiological and psychological needs of marine mammals.
Dr. Frohoff declared : « I was surprised to meet so many cases of discomfort in such a short period. To get a vision of the gravity of the situation as precise and complete as possible, I should study the dolphins over a longer period. But during my two days of visit in the delphinarium, which I had never visited, I nevertheless noted a series of behaviors which, on the basis of scientific knowledge available and of my twenty years long experience of study of the behavior, indicate a great mental suffering and great risks for the safety and the health of the animals. The Bruges dolfinarium is clearly too small for nine dolphins. Maybe the total surface of the basins meets Belgian standards but it doesn’t even meet the legal receiving conditions applicable in Brazil.
* A scientific authority
Dr. Frohoff is one of the rare scientists in the world really specialized in the wellbeing of dolphins. For more than twenty years, she has carried out researches on cetacean behavior and has inspected for various international governmental authorities facilities where marine mammals were held in captivity.
She is for instance author of a scientific study about dolphin stress for the benefite of IWC. That’s because of her great scientific credibility that Yvon Godefroid, in the name of GAIA, asked her to visit Bruges dolphinarium and to write a report about the situation there.
* Main remarks of Dr. Toni Frohoff:
* The facility environment is completely poor in comparison with other delphinariums in the world, which try to create a more natural environment for their dolphins.
Following her expertise, this facility appears to be sub-standard compared to many facilities around the world that
1. provide a more naturalistic environment for dolphins and
2. adhere to international governmental regulations. This is especially notable due to the extreme noise and reverberation that is characteristic of an indoor facility (and in particular this one that plays such loud music and encourages loud sounds from the audience as well).
In fact, this was also the loudest facility of the many Toni visited and in her opinion, it is completely unacceptable and constitutes cruelty to these animals who are well-known for their exquisitely sensitive hearing. Further, the ambient and reverberating noises of the indoor facility pumps and maintenance systems may produce continuous noise from which the dolphins cannot escape. According to her, this point is unacceptable when you know the high auditive sensitivity of the dolphins.
* An inadequate light conditions that can create poor psychological and physical conditions.
* Useless risks for the safety of the visitors who, for instance are allowed to feed the animals. Dolphins are unforeseeable, so the danger of a bite is real. Public feeding of dolphins has been documented in studies as being highly dangerous to both people and dolphins due to dolphins that injure people as well as disease transmission (which is apparently common according to government reports and research)
*- Aggressive and submissive behavior was observed between dolphins.
Even during this short observation time of the dolphins in the « isolation pool », Toni observed dolphins displacing (pushing), snapping at, and slamming into other dolphins. Such behavior in the confines of captivity, especially in a facility like this one, does not give the dolphins a reasonable opportunity to escape – therefore such interactions have been scientifically demonstrated to be associated with suffering, illness and even death (see Frohoff 1993, Sweeney 1990, Waples and Gales 2002) (for example, one young dolphin reportedly died due to dolphin aggression at this facility).
* – An abnormal number of aggressions: dolphins pushing back, grabbing, striking each other.
* – Many abnormal and disturbed behaviors: Toni was surprised to note so many forms and frequencies of stress-related behavior in the short amount of time in which she observed the dolphins in the isolation pool, separate from the main performance pool. Such behaviors included stereotyped circling, stereotyped abrupt body slaps, chuffing (sharp and repetitive exhalations), repeated « begging », stereotyped « beaching » outside of water, « open jaw »
displays towards audience members, abrupt head ‘jerks’, and even doing the same tricks as the performing dolphins were requested to perform – but unlike the others, they were virtually ignored.
* – A great lack of enriching environment.
* -Very limited educational programs. The dolphin show appeared to be much more of a comedic circus act for the purpose of entertainment/recreation than an educational show due to displaying dolphins in a subservient and exploitive manner and elicited to behave more like clowns than dolphins.
* – By capturing or even importing dolphins already in captivity, whether wild-caught or captive-born, Belgium would still be responsible for contributing to a largly environmentally irresponsible and inhumane market in dolphin trade and capture. Because of the poor conditions for dolphins in this facility, continuing to breed dolphins here could perhaps cause additional problems for the dolphins already in this facility and consequently be considered irresponsible for different reasons.
Recommendations of Dr. Frohoff
– to create an official commission with international scientific experts and defenders of the animal cause (made in 2014)
– Complete, regular, and unannounced inspection of the facility be required on a regular basis conducted by experts in both dolphin behavior and veterinary care.
– to create an enriching environment, based on best scientific knowledge available and the recommendations of experts, in order to improve the wellbeing of the dolphins on short-term.
– to make regulations on dolphins in captivity much more strict.
– To prohibit all physical interactive contact with dolphins, including dolphin petting.
– to submit any study project on dolphins for approval to the authorities and the commission,
– to establish a regulation which prohibits other dolphinaria in Belgium and make closed existing dolphinarium if it does not satisfy new revised standards,
– to prohibit the breeding of dolphins and the importation of animals raised in captivity or captured in other countries,
– to study all alternatives to the captivity, which could have a positive and effective pedagogical impact on the knowledge of the true nature of the dolphins and encourage the protection of wild cetaceans.
Let’s remember that in June 2005, the Belgian Parliament had voted for a resolution requiring the Government not to authorize any new dolphinarium in Belgium anymore.
The Parliament also required the creation of a Commission dedicated to examine the current standards on dolphins husbandry in Belgium.
At the hour we write this text, nothing is yet done.
This Commission must gather delegates as representatives of zoological gardens, experts in dolphins husbandry and
members of animal protection groups. (Made in 2011).
Rudy Demotte, Ministre des Affaires Sociales et de la Santé
Avenue des Arts, 7 – 1210 Bruxelles
(For memory, Tex the single Bruges stallion just died in Antibes Marineland this summer, while his children Luna and Marco, were sent in a new facility in Rome)
Aspro Ocio buys Bruges
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.
Two adult dolphins just died at Bruges Dolfinarium (Belgium), which is supposed to be a « European model facility » and the head office of the European Association for Aquatic Mammals (E.A.A.M.).
These are the female TERRY and the young male SKIPPY, who both deceased at the beginning of September 2000.
TERRY arrived in Bruges in 1989. She was then old 6 or 7 years and gave birth to two children in the current of 1990, Fernando and Flo, of which one died and the other always alive.
According to Dr. Gerard Lippert, veterinarian and responsible person of Belgian DELPHUS association, which transmits this
information to us, the death of TERRY would be mainly caused by the presence of yeasts which would have proliferated in her body.
It should be known that the captive dolphins are receiving daily a strong antibiotic treatment.
This processing, intended to fight against bacteria, decreases in the same time the dolphin natural capacity to react against skin
The yeasts attack mainly the mucous membranes (mouth, blowhole,
anal slit) and causes, according to Dr Lippert’s words » an terrifying slow death ».
The dolphin rots literally alive…
SKIPPY was a young male dolphin aged of 10 years old. He was born in Bruges delphinarium from PUCKY, maybe the oldest
European captive dolphin female (35 years old).
Bruges’s trainers are worrying today about PUCKY health.
Just like Iris with Ivo, she was very related to her son SKIPPY and seems to react to this new drama by a deep indifference to its environment and a complete and autistic withdrawal in
Desperated by her son’s death, Pucky could soon die in her
Some rumors say that the Direction of Bruges Delphinarium
could plan to put an end to this facility. But what about the last
surviving dolphins, then ?
Located close near the pretty town of Bruges, Boudewijn Park delphinarium is the last one in belgium, since the Antwerp’ delphinarium closed in 1999.
Its promotion leaflet announces :
» New decoration, new show, new music! A tremendous show implying dolphins and sea lions swimming in more than three million liters of water and over six meters of depth! »
In 2000, Brugge Dolfinarium is considered as one of the largest and the most modern of Europe.
« A intensive program of dolphin breeding is carried out by our scientific team! » adds the leaflet and it is true that dolphin breeding is certainly the main speciality of this « new look » delphinarium.
Build as a half-tank, the pool has the advantage of an impressive depth – more than five meters – but it is completely empty, without any rock, object, ornament or alga. Front walls are made of transparent glass, so that people can watch the movements of the marine mammals under the surface. At the back part of the pool, a scenery of a doubtful taste represents a village of Florida. We suppose that some other less deep basins must exist beyond this scenery but we didn’t visit them.
The main basin
In 1999, eleven dolphins were supposed to live there: three of them would have been captured off the USA. Puck, one of the oldest captive female in the world is now aged of 34 years and is proud to have survive to 30 years of continuous captivity !
She has given birth to many children – most of them died soon afterwards- and seems to still be able to procreate.
Tex, the « stalion », would count more than 20 years of captivity.
Lastly, four babies would have been born in 1999.
At this occasion, the dominating male of the place was moved to Harderwijck. He would have been aggressive against new-born babies, which is a uncommon behavior in the wild.
This male would return once babies will be taller…
All these data are in the conditional mood (Note 2015 : CETA BASE didn’t exist in 2000…) . In 1999, Bruges announced that it owns eleven dolphins, but in its promotion folder of April 2000, only ten are mentioned. And we saw eight dolphins swimming in the main basin at the time of our visit. What does it mean ? How many dolphins are living there, at last ?
Captive dolphins seem to be in good health and rather dynamic, but maybe it’s because they are hungry and nervous. They strike the water with their caudal while waiting for the beginning of their show.
For reasons not explained by the trainer, dolphins are gathered in little separated groups in each of the two small side basins, during all the duration of the show of the sea lions. When comes the turn of the dolphins, the sea lions line up quickly at the edge of the basin and remain motionless there.
No name is given to the dolphins during the show and so it is impossible to know who is who, who goes where and
who is absent. It is clear that under such conditions, all traffics, exchanges and discrete transfers of dolphin from one facility to another become extremely easy. It is also known that Sea World owned successively several orca’s all named with the same name of « Shamu » each time the previous orca died. This fact could explain why the » 1991 Marine Mammal Report Inventory » quotes a lot of dolphins and babies which have been sold or exchanged to other zoos from time to time.
In Belgium, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for
« Protection of the Animals and Movement » (General Direction N°5 ). Animal
Welfare is controled by another Deparment depending on the Ministry of Health
and Environment. Bruges dolfinarium is also protected by the officials of Bruges
City, because of the visitor’s entries. It seems that Bruges Delphinarium has also excellent friends among the responsible persons of the quoted Ministreries.
The trainer swims with her « wild
beasts » ‘
The noise level is extremely high. A battery of loudspeakers are suspended at the dome ceiling. They pour disco or new age music during all the show’s duration. Apparently pre-recorded « pedagogic comments » are said by an anonymous voice falling from the sky, while the trainers are silently miming the announced scene near the pool.
The sea lions show is particularly humiliating : we wonder how the fact of constraining a marine mammal to dance on disco music with his trainer can learn to us anything about the natural and complex behaviour of this intelligent species.
We shall not describe this so usual dolphin « pedagogic » show : a young girl swims with the dolphins, the dolphins show their flippers and their flukes to the audience, they splash water towards it, they pull out a little boat with a kid sitting on it and so on…
At the end of the show, the speaker tell the audience that the dolphins are living until the age of 25.
And that’s certainly true… when in captivity !
Sea lion through the glass wall, before the dolphin show
During 1988, an awful burning destroyed the whole Bruges facility.
At least three adult dolphins died at this occasion, suffocated by the fire smoke and buried alive by the blazing debris of the
The Belgian Press remained – as usual – very silent about this tragic event and its’ now hard to find any exact references
concerning this deadly fire.
Nevertheless, a article is known : written by A.Vollmacher and publish in the Flemish newspapers « Het Laaste Nieuws » in may 9, 1988, the title of this article is : » Dolphins suffocate underneath burning building » « Dolfijnen stikken onder brandend puin ».
In 2000, we took a picture of six dolphins.
The males are carefully gathered by trainers in each corner of the pool,
by fear of fightings…
* Allan (M), born in the wild in 1963, « acquired »
by Harderwijck in 1974, dead at Bruges by suffocation on August 5, 1988, during
the Big Burning.
* Kiana (F) born in the wild in 1963, « acquired » by Harderwijck in 1974, dead at Bruges by suffocation on August 5, 1988, during the Big Burning.
* Jasperina (F) born in the wild around 1974, a »acquired » by Harderwijck in 1978, dead in 1987.
* Oshun (F) born in 1987, from Allan & Kiana, dead by suffocation on
August 5, 1988, during the Big Burning.
* Kim (F) born in the wild in 1985, captured in 1988 near Gulfport, dead
of pneumonia in January 1989.
* Kim’s baby, stillborn in 1989.
Roxanne (F) born in the wild in 1985, captured in 1988 near Gulfport.Still
Wiliam or Ringo (M) born in the wild in 1985, captured in 1988 near Gulfport.
Still alive ?
Puck (F) born in the wild in 1966, no information about her capture.
Still alive in 2002, as one of the oldest captive of the world.
Tex (M) born in the wild in 1974, acquired at Dolfirado (BV) in june 1988.
We were told by Ocean Grege of Réseau Cétacés that the 10th dolphin of Bruges Dolfinarium, TEX, father of all the captive-born there, just died in Antibes Marineland ( » a circus by anoher name » http://www.captiveanimals.org/aquarium/marineland.htm )
one week ago.
He was sent there two years ago as a stallion. Aurore, his new best girlfriend at Antibes, is now isolated, by fear of diseases.
Tex was born in 1974. He was captured between 1978 and 1980 at Rockport, Texas. So, he was not OLD…
But travelling from facility to facility, as all captive male dolphins must do, seems not to be good for their health.
We wonder if Bruge’s « Sea park » – as it called itself now – will communicate about this death in the Dutch press or on its website…
Once a captive dolphin is dead, everyone is pleased to forget him….
Linda (F) born in the wild in 1976, acquired at Dolfirado (BV) in june 1988.
* Thea (F) stillborn in 1991, daughter of Tex & Linda.
* Skippy (M) captive born at Bruges in 1990, son of Tex & Puck, dead
in September 2000
* Terry (F)
captured in the wild (?), arrived in Bruges in 1989, mother of Flo et Fernando,
dead in September 2000.
Corki (M) captive born in 1993 at Bruges, son of Tex & Linda. Still alive in Zoomarine/Portugal
Luna (F) no information. Still alive in Portugal in Zoomarine/Portugal
* Fernando (M) captive born now dead.
As for the « 29 » dead dolphins of Antwerp Zoo, this information is not quite reliable.
The names quoted her above were taken from the Marine Mammal Inventory Report of March 31 1995 but the deaths’ number is surely more important.
Belgian Press and Delphinarium staff just announce the births, never the deaths !
We do not mention her the names of dead sealions and those of the dead grey seals, which are much too numerous.
It seems that 10 dolphins live today in Bruges in September 2003.
Founders captured at sea:
Puck (37 years)
Tex (29 years)
Linda (27 years)
Roxanne (18 years)
From: Mary Mosley
To: Yvon Godefroid
Cc: Bill Rossiter CSI ;
Sent: Tuesday, June 08, 2004 8:23 PM
Subject: Re: About Bruges dolphins founders origin
Your email states you are looking to confirm Tex, Linda, Puck, and Roxanne having
originated from the USA. The following information is from NMFS records. All are confirmed to have been
U.S. citizens except Puck.
Puck was likely to have been from the USA since he was permitted by USA to
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) records:
Tex – Capture was between 1978 -1980 at Rockport, Texas.
Permit #620 was issued to Brugge
for transfer of Kim (Gulfport)), Roxanne (Gulfport), Terry (Gulfport) and William
(Gulfport). USA Dolphin.
Linda – Captured off the Southeast coast of Texas under Dolfirado B V’s Permit #299 between
1980 – 1982. USA Dolphin.
Puck – 1966 Puck is listed as a Pre-Act Female dolphin without background.
Roxanne – Dolphin transferred to Brugge under Permit #620 from
was issued to Brugge to capture in 1987, expiring in 1989.
Captures were from the Missisippi
Sound, Louisiana, and Alabama waters.
Permits are issued for two years after which they
expire. USA Dolphin.
*Zeedierenpark records do not reflect transfer of Allen, Kiana, and Jasperina to
Brugge… only that Jasperina died in 1987 implying death occurred at their facility.
The transfer was a
violation to the MMPA – many violations were ignored by NMFS when they were called to
*On NMFS records, Bruges is spelled with a double
P.S. I will keep looking for Puck, but he may have had a name change, could be a
Pre/Act transfer out of Miami, or not listed with a facility.
born calves :
– Yotta (daughter
of Puck and Tex, born on
August 24, 1998)
– Milo (son
Linda and Tex, born on 23 June 1999, 4 years old)
– Flo (daughter
of Terry and Tex, 5 years old)
– Indy (daughter of
Puck and Tex born on July 13, 2003)
– Mateo (son of
Tex and Linda born on August 12, 2003)
– Ocean (son of
Tex and Roxanne born on August 13, 2003)
September 2000, Skippy (wire of Puck and Tex) died at the ten years age. Terry,
which was a founder, died at the age of seven years at the same time.
Corki, Marco and Luna. are no in Zoomarine Portugal.
When you enter the main hall of the delphinarium, a little panel attracts
Pinned on its the back, a simple printed white paper
describe the significant researches undertaken by the delphinarium for years.
Let’s remind that these researches are supposed to justify – following Cites
Annex II – dolphin traffic and captivity itself.
At Bruges, these
researches are the following ones:
1. Dolphin behaviour
2. Sonar use by the dolphins
3. Dolphin therapy with
autistic children (?)
4. Disease of the « red mullet » and a way of
vaccination against it.
The two first points are hardly
justified, because we know almost everything about dolphin sonar and behaviour
in captivity since the Sixties.
Research N° 3 does not deliver any
useful information concerning the dolphin itself.
Lastly, research N°
4, for the reasons already expressed elsewhere , is not relevant, because it’s
undertaken on captive subjects, physiologically different from their free
Nevertheless, it’s important to stress the point that
Bruges Delphinarium plays a central role on the level of the creation of the
great theoretical bases of the dolphin husbandry in Europe.
Geraldine Lacave , the official delphinarium veterinary was also the chairwoman
of European Association for Aquatic Mammals (E.A.A.M.) founded in 1972 in
Hardewijck Delphinarium (the Netherlands).
The goal of this
1. To promote scientific and professional
exchanges between directors of zoo, dolphin trainers, researchers, veterinary
surgeons and others, concerning the maintenance in captivity of
2. To provide a centralised organisation for the use of
the professionals interested in » captivity progress ».
3. To create
the theoretical bases for » optimal husbandry of the cetaceans under human care
or in zoological environment » and to promote these methods
The EEAM « Standards of receiving in
Delphinarium » are available on the EAAM site.
of this association is located at the address of the last Delphinarium of
European Association for Aquatic Mammals
33230 Tampere, Finland
+358 3 2488 111
Fax +358 3 2121 279
The last Symposium in date organised by the EAAM took place in Mundomar,
Benidorm, Spain (one of the last European countries to still open new
delphinariums) March 11 and 15 2000, on the topic :
» The role of
the marine parks for the conservation of the seas through the educational
programs « .
A hard program, indeed…
Even if dolphins are surviving longer in Bruges
than in other places, it changes nothing to the fact it’s not a right place for
them. To be able to survive so long is just a sign of their huge intelligence,
adaptability and love of life.
On the other hand, breeding-in-tank kills a lot of
newborn each year and gives birth to some kind of dolphin-zombis. Without
culture, without complete social relationships, without sun and fresh air,
without seeds, rocks and real salt water, a dolphin is not a dolphin.
not able to learn how to hunt in the sea, nor how to speak his own tribe’s
dialect nor how it feels to swim straight on during hours and hours under the
sky in an open sea….
Bruges dolphinarium is just an animal circus, devoted
to « intensive breeding » and solding their dolphins as soon as they’re weaned ,
as totally dominated and tractable « dolphin slaves », performing days after
weeks after weeks, years after years, unil they die too young…
To protest against the Bruges Dolfinarium
for the complete rehabilitation
of all its inmates
Boudewijn Park &
Fax: + 32(0)50/38.23.43.
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
de l’Environnement, de la Protection de la consommation
et du Développement durable
Avenue des Arts 7
Tél.: +32 (0)18.104.22.168
Fax: +32 (0)22.214.171.124
Official provider of Bruges Dolfinarium
Training, Transport, Display and Care of Dolphins, Sea Lions and
Less than a week after having visited the Bruges delphinarium,
Yvan Mayeur, the President of the Commission of Health and Environment of the Belgian
Parliament and his colleague Thierry Giet, team leader deputee of the
French Talking Socialist Political Party, deposited last Monday a law
Their text asks the Government to ban any new establishment of delphinariums on the Belgian
territory and envisages the survival of Bruges delphinarium only under more strict conditions.
« Scientifc studies revealed that dolphin is very intelligent, cognitively endowed with self-awareness and able to suffer boredom, for instance. In the wild, dolphin’s instincts (hunting, reproduction, displacements,
ad so on ), as well as its complex social structures can expand.
« On the other hand, in captivity, dolphin is far from finding natural life
conditions », explain the members of Parliament, who refer to the analysis of a cetacean specialist,
Dr. Thierry Jauniaux (Laoboratory of
oceanology of the University of Liege ) who was the only one scientist to be
allowed to Bruges facility.
The deputees add that « the repetitive shows intended to amuse the audience are not the reflection of whaht is really a dolphin, give no information about the numerous aspects of the life of this animal and are not the best educating example of animal respect ».
The text requires that no new authorization was given in the future for new delphinarium in Belgium.
What about Bruges facility ?
« One can certainly not affirm that the dolphins of Bruges are suffering nor that the enterprise does not make creditable efforts in order to teach its visitors », explain the
Deputees Mayeur and Giet also note that the captive dolphins are mainly unable to manage alone in tne sea once they are released. The proposed text thus imposes on Bruges delphinarium to use the services of a recognized specialist
veterinary and to set up a scientific and medical committee.
The text also prohibits any further importation in Belgium of wild captured dolphins.
(c) La Dernière Heure
It’s clear the 10 dolphins of Bruges (9 in Bruges, one in Antibes) are
kept in « usual » conditions, id est : in a rather « large » pool enclosed under a roof, with no sun nor fresh air. Following the European criteria,
they are received in legal husbandry conditions, even if the facility provides some forms of « swim with dolphins » (in fact, rather » touch the dolphins « ) activities for blind and autistic children.
It’s sure also that Puck, mother of many members of the present pod, is almost 40 years
But Belgian activists are mainly concerned by the future of the 6 captive-born youngsters and
the way they live now.
Bruges delphinarium is owned by a powerfull Spanish group named Aspro Ocio who notably owns 11 marine parks and aquatic leisure centers, including Catalyuna Parc, where dolphin assisted therapy is intensively practised and which recently sent two sick captive dolphins to Marineland Antibes, France.
At any time, our « Belgian dolphins » can be sent in Spain, or new Spanish dolphins can replace them in Belgium, without nobody knows it.
Moreover, after the large July 11 2004 street demo we organised alongside with Gaia,
Ric O’Barry, One Voice and some other associations in front of Bruges Delphinarium, our Governement sent the « Commission of Health and Environment of the Belgian Parliament » in order to visit the place and check if dolphins were correctly treated. After its visit, this group of experts decided to write a « law proposition ».
This text asks the Government to ban any new establishment of delphinariums on the Belgian territory and envisages the survival of Bruges delphinarium under more strict conditions.
« One can certainly not affirm that the dolphins of Bruges are suffering nor that the enterprise does not make creditable efforts in order to teach its visitors » declared Deputees Y. Mayeur, T.Giet and M.Demeyer, who also note that captive dolphins are unable to manage alone in the sea once they are released.
The text thus imposes on Bruges Delphinarium to use the services of a recognized specialist veterinary – it had none ! – and to set up a scientific and medical committee. The text at last prohibits any further importation in Belgium of « recently » wild captured dolphins…. (since « old ones » are needed as stallions travelling all around Europe !)
What you must know is that the Commission conclusions were founded on the observations of a cetacean specialist, Dr. Thierry Jauniaux (Laboratory of oceanology of the University of Liege )
who was the ONLY scientist allowed to visit Bruges delphinarium.
Alongside with Michel Vanden Bosche, President of Gaia association, we were invited to meet the parliamentaries some weeks later in order to bring improvements to the future law text. At this little meeting were present the deputees Magda Demeyer but also some « dolphin specialists » id est :
Thierry Jauniaux, Manuel Hartmann (Duisburg Zoo) and a representative of Harderwijck Delphinarium !
We felt very very alone in front of such « specialists » !
Of course, these guys refused most of our modifications and told Bruges us was a real paradise !
« If a dolphin eat, reproduce,and behave normally, everything is OK » they told us.
The final « law proposition » is now officially published. It is surely a great step because it globally criticizes the fact of keeping dolphins in pools, but I’m afraid it’s not enough. It’s not even a real law, it’s just a « resolution ».
(See below the text in French and Dutch on the Belgian Parliament’s website :
That’s why it could be useful if one day, real well-known independent scientists could come and visit this dark highly chlorinated facility once again, in the name of Born Free, for instance.
I’m sure you’ll see this place with other eyes than our Belgian specialist
Thierry Jauniaux, who is certainly an excellent biologist but who cooperates with European Association for Aquatic Mammals and trainers for years.
See for instance : http://eaam.org/Symposia/
We thus think it could be interesting if some independent
scientist could check the REAL physical and behavioral
state of our 6 captive-born dolphins, as they are now getting older and for some of them, soon sexually mature. It’s a quite dangerous age for
We must remember a lot of dolphins died in Bruges. Recently, its officials recognised in the Press 13 dead dolphins in 14
years, adding it’s a normal death rate in the wild. But how many died since 1971 ? We know at least that in 1988, the entire delphinarium has burned and that three dolphins or more were perishing in the fire.
In 1998, Linda (a founder) lost her still-born baby just in the middle of a public show, under horrified eyes of the
audience…and she performed again two days later !
In 2000, Skippy (captive-born) died a the age of 10.and Terry (a founder) around 20.
Gorky and Luna, captive-born, were recently sent to Zoomarine, Portugal, where they swim with tourists and Cuban dolphins. Now, Gorky is sent in Sweden. And so on…
Same situations occur everywhere everyday in the world and often, they are worst than this one. But it is important to note that in Belgium, there is a large part of public and political opinion which is ready for a total
banning of dolphin captivity, as in UK.
See the text in French :