Duisburg Zoo, September 2001



Duisburg Zoo, 
September 2001 

IRIS SLOWLY DYING! 

Iris en Juin 2001. Photo JP Vonde der Becke

An old tire ? A buoy ? Or a she-dolphin at the end of her poor
life ? .

Following recent news received
in October, there is no change in this awfull situation. 
No move. 
Iris is just waiting for death. 

A little happy family, they said ? 

This last June 12 2001, a Belgian activist’s delegation went once again to Duisburg Zoo. This
group was composed of Dr. Gerard Lippert, director of DELPHUS association, Jean-Pierre
Von der Becke, photographer and former associate of Diane Fossey in Africa, and Yvon
Godefroid, journalist. 

Dr Manuel Hartmann, the main veterinarian in charge of the Zoo’s animals, had been warned
long before in advance of the date and hour of our visit, but, unhappily, he didn’t not have
time – or didn’t want – to receive us, despite of our renewed calls at the entry of the Zoo. 

After we entered the enclosure of Delphinarium, we better understood the reason of its refusal
to discuss with us about his dolphins.
At first sight, nothing new : mural paintings were just refreshed and made more luminous,
evoking now a quiet huge sea under a vast blue sky. Bad luck : dolphin’s eyes do not perceive
neither blue nor green, so these paintings are just for human use… 

Four dolphins were jumping « joyfully » in the main central pool. All of them seemed to be
healthy and vigorous. 
Ivo, who is now the uncontested master of the pool, was engaging again in spectacular
performances: : he jumped almost up to the ceiling, was carrying a balloon into his fins and
threw it to his trainer, while « his » three she-dolphins Pepina, Daisy and Delphy were
splashing the audience with their caudals. As it was Tuesday, the public was mainly 
composed of school children and their teachers. This show was thus quite different from the
previous one last winter, just after the death of Play boy and of many stillborn children… 

So we saw firstly four dolphins in good health  » playing  » merrily in the large basin, like a
true « small little family  » in a fragile and temporary balance … until, of course, another male
is brought or until another death occurs. We know that « happiness  » never lasts long for
captive dolphins. 

Everything’s allright, then ? 

Not really. 
Look on better, now, turn your eyes to left side of the large basin. Observe this famous small
basin where Iris and Ivo spent so many months just after their arrival in 1999. Is this a buoy which is floating there ? A gray balloon? An old forgotten tire?
One sees firstly a kind of dark body floating motionless just under the surface of water. 

While approaching – despite of the vehement protests of some dolphin-trainers – one notes that
it is indeed an animal and that it seems still alive. A slack fin, almost laid down, surmounts the bump of the round gray back which emerges.
And it’s all. It is all what remains of Iris. 

The "old" she-dolphin turns on her back on the public, her rostrum obstinately fixed in the
furthest corner of this tiny basin, without moving nor reacting at all.  
Not only once, in half an hour of this show, she will raise her head out of the water or nor
show her eyes. 
Not only once, we will see her moving or joining the rest of the group as she still did it the
last year. 
While the other captive dolphins are jumping, plunging and rebounding unceasingly, the
water of the communicating basins was creating swirls which was shaking her poor inert
body, like a corpse. 

Actually, Iris is just saying « No ». She’s telling us "It’s enough
!" 
Exhausted by more than twenty years of a captive life full of innumerable deaths, broken by
the loss of her last child, Iris is leaving away. She suffered too much.
Then, literally, she turns on her back on us. She now denies this human world which broke her life, she doesn’t want no
more to see these men who drew her from the huge sea when she was twelve years old, when
she was still living free among her pod and friends and real family, thse men
who threw her into a tiny water hole, without any reason, without any pity, just
in order to make money. 

At the end of this first daily show (two others will follow), whereas our delegation
approached the small basin in order to take some more pictures, an employee of the zoo came
with a bucket full of fishes. 

And then, this robot, this automate which was long ago a free and happy dolphin began to roll
over two or three times, performing quickly a caricatured and miserable « show » in front of her
unaffected trainer. 

Iris en Juin 2001. Photo JP Vonde der Becke

Her last show , just in order to eat…..

According to Dr. Gerard Lippert, the fact of eating for a captive dolphin is associated in an
irremediable way with the obligatory execution of any performance, even as minimal as this
outlined « rolling over ». Just a conditioned reflex, but for Iris, it was yet exhausting. 
After eating, she quickly returned to her statute of motionless buoy again, sad and alone as she
never was before. 

Iris must be approximately thirty-two years old today. 
In the wild, she could still give birth to children and live twenty years more. 
In Duisburg, she will undoubtedly have died before a few weeks. For her, the show will be soon over for ever. And it’s undoubtedly much better and less cruel :
life in a delphinarium is not really worth being lived…

YG

SAVE IRIS! 
Thank you to plead her cause near : 

Duisburg Zoo Director 
Dr. Frese 
Mülheimerstrasse 273 
47058 Duisburg 
Such 0049 203/305590 
Fax / 3055922 
Web site: http://www.zoo-duisburg.de/
E-mail: info@zoo-duisburg.de 

German Environment Minister 
Bundesministerium für Umwelt, 
Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit 
z.H. Herrn Minister Jürgen Trittin 
Kennedy Allee 5 
D-53175 Bonn 
Deutschland 
Such 0049/228/30 50 Fax / 30 53 225 


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Duisburg Zoo, September 2001

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