Iris and Ivo at Duisburg Zoo

Photo J.P.Von der Becke Juillet 2000
July 2000 : Iris and Ivo in Duisburg


 Iris and Ivo at Duisburg Zoo

Iris is dead !

Iris  & Ivo on February 2003

july 2002

iris & ivo  &
little duke in march 2002

New dashes of solidarity in favor of iris
June 2001
Iris is slowly dying of despair  !

January 2001
Iris renounces the shows and stays all alone

Duisburg Zoo, July 2000

Ivo : King of the Tank

Iris and Ivo are still alive !

April 18 2000

Iris’ baby died

March 29 2000: PlayBoy is dead

March 25 2000 : Daisy waits for her dying father

Early March 2000

January 4th 2000

December 99

September 1999

June 1999

May 1999

March 1999

How To Help Them ?

A petition for iris

Industry killed Iris !

Just before she died... No one did anything to save her...

On April 13th, 2003 the tragic news reached us : after a long and serious depression the dolphin Iris died in her small pool in the Zoo in Duisburg on  March 28th, 2003.  Of course, following the Duisburg Zoo´s homepage, there is a natural cause, as always. Read below the text published in German on the Duisburg Zoo site.
(Thanks to Herma Caelen for the translation ! ) :

« On 28 March 2003 dolphin Iris died.
At an age of probably 34 years she has been one of the oldest dolphins in captivity in Europe: already in Jan1998 she was one of only 6 females of the age of = 30 years (references:  Europäisches Zuchtbuch für Große Tümmler, see edition: García Hartmann, M. (2000): The European studbook of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): 1998 survey results“, Aquatic Mammals 26(2): S. 95-100.).  Iris has been in the zoo of Antwerp from 1981 until 1999 und afterwards came, with her son Ivo, to Duisburg and that in the frame of the European programme EEP.
She had an easy transfer and got well acclimatised, considering her age.

It became soon clear that she had a very strong character and took over the role of the female boss and „Grand dame“ and showed little interest to participate in shows. She rather choose her favoured pool where she spent almost all her time and did not participate in shows.

On the other hand she demonstrated her readiness for cooperation outside the shows and even learned new things, a so-called « medical behaviour », which is very important in the frame of veterinary care. Her behaviour was different from that of other dolphins, characterized most of all by phases of rest which she spent sleeping on the surface and which became longer as years went by.

Most dolphins sleep when swimming but just one half of the brain is sleeping whilst the other active half of the brain coordinates movement and breathing. The quietness of Iris was unusual and initiated further tests  which led to the idea that she might be suffering from a kind of old-age-leucemia. This form of leucemia is hardly documented for dolphins and that is why a proof took some time. The initiated, very careful administered treatment showed better test results of the blood and resulted in some more activity. In January and the beginning of February 2003 she ate irregularly and shortly after that the leucemia flared up again.

An adapted treatment showed success and she felt better after some time. Also the instability when floating on the surface, which was to be seen during some days, passed during the treatment. At the beginning of March this instability was noticeable again, without any warning and much stronger: Iris was more laying on her side than before and even had difficulties swimming.
This form of instability could have several possible reasons and Iris was again examined thoroughly. Finally it had to be determined if a lung tumor or a collaps of the lung was the reason.

In order to have certainty, a CT was done in a veterinary clinic. As far as we know that is the first time that a CT was performed on a live dolphin. The result was that Iris suffered from a collapsed right lung. This illnes has only recently been seen, namely in the year 2000 for the first time and in the case of five beached wild dolphins and whales (Domingo, Degollada, Alonso, Alegre, López & García > Hartmann (2000):Tensional pneumothorax in small cetaceans. In: Lung > pathology. Editor:M.García Hartmann. ECS Newsletter 37, Special issue.)

Her condition worsened rapidly.
She had more and more problems to hold her breathing position.
During the night of 26 March, Iris was assisted in order to spare her the effort of taking the breathing position.

The next morning her condition had deteriorated even further.
Her circulation and breathing were affected so that she could swim only with difficulty when she was searching for help of the personnel.
In spite of all efforts she died on the evening of 28 March ».

As usual, and even if this particular text is a moving one (the description of the death of Iris is really hard to read…), never the Duisburg Zoo or any delphinarium will ever admit a captive dolphin could die for psychological reasons, as boredom or despair.

They will never admit the simple fact to be captive and deprived from real life stimulations in an artificial water « purified by ozon » – which created black stains on the skin of iris – is sufficient to die well before the normal age.
According to Rick O’Barry, such kind of depressions are very frequent and almost unavoidable after several
years of captivity. Mavis died recently in West Edmonton Mall, Canada, exactly for the same reasons.
But of course, this syndrome is kept hidden by the pleasure industry.

They will not tell you a dolphin could live much longer even in captivity, if only he is allowed to get sun, permanent social environnement and real seawater, as Nellie, the 50 years old she-dolphin living now in Florida Marineland.

Iris was one of the thousand bottlenose dolphins living in captivity, but because of her zeal for living, her will to defend her son in the hell of the Antwerp Zoo and finally of her refusal to participate in all the boring shows – except if she could learn NEW THINGS, as Duisburg Zoo tells us –  she has now become the symbol and perhaps even the hero of the mad captivity and destructive industry.

Instead of letting her die in this scandalous way it would have been very simple to bring her to a retirement lagoon in 1998.
She would have quickly found enough reasons to live and to become healthy again… and perhaps even to be free
again. Nothing has been gained.
Iris was killed by captivity, that’s as simple as that.
Thousands of others await the same fate, we know today that not a single captive dolphin leaves its captivity alive.

The responsabilities are heavy in the death of Iris

For the management of Zoo of Duisburg :

Mainly for economic reasons, Iris was left to her fate. She could have been taken to a beach lagoon such as Conyland or the dolphinarium in Harderwijck where she could have lived under better circumstances but this was not an option because of budgetary reasons. Iris was only 33 years of age.
Even in captivity she could easily have lived another 20 years on condition that
she would live in decent living circumstances. Proof is that, although exceptional, Nelly in Marineland (Florida) reached the age of 50.

For the management of the Antwerp Zoo :

In 1997 and 1998 we repeatedly notified the Antwerp Zoo of the dangers involved in transporting their last dolphins to Germany.
At that time successfull rehabilitation plans were being applied. There are many examples. They were refused and, this is the climax, because for the safety of the dolphins. Once the dolphins arrived none of the Antwerp trainers who were so attached to the animals found it worthwhile to help their “dolphins”. In 1999 the press assured us that the situation was absolutely “normal”, regardless of the constant fighting between the two dominant male dolphins and the deep
depression of Iris. Her last pregnancy resulted in a dead calf and was a clear sign of her depression.

For activists :
We are still waiting for plans and common consultations to build a “retreat and rehabilitation lagoon” in a confined bay where captive dolphins could sojourn to gain strength prior to being returned to their native habitats. These last years different suggestions have been made but no unanimous decisions were reached.
It is, however the only acceptable solution for most of the “old” dolphins such as Iris, kept in captivity in Europe.


Iris is Dead

Iris in Duisburg in 2002

Personal testimony from the web master

I would finally like to add my own testimony.

Around 1981 I visited the Zoo at Antwerp with my son Michael to see these famous dolphins whom everyone was talking about at the time, and about who, the novelist Robert Merle was attributing so much intelligence.

At that time I was completely unaware of the suffering which was rife in these places of confinement but I watched the show with scepticism. All these games with balls and hoops seemed sad and hardly engaging. All these grey, pale, dolphins seemed pretty stupid !

They were enclosed in a pool that was too small for them, they bumped into each other to find their place, but naively, at the time, I thought that these animals also had use of far larger pools next to this one, or elsewhere. (This of course was never the case.)

I was also struck by the presence of two dolphins who remained timid in a corner, without moving. They were looking at the shows like us, but in
their case, it was a question of life or death. These two had just been ‘acquired’ the trainer explained to us at the time, who avoided the word ‘capture’ like all the other trainers, and this is why Iris and Ivo still had to learn their new ‘job’.

Later, around 1996, we visited them again at Antwerp. Mother and son from that time onwards swam alone in a depopulated pool: all the others were dead!
Our two friends were so bored that it was necessary to add seals to the pool to give them some distraction and spice up their shows. One of these sad pinnipedians was blowing and moving about restlessly against the bars of a metal cage which separated the isolation chambers from the main pool. What became of that seal ? All of them died at the zoo like flies, to everyone’s complete indifference…

The show over, the trainers went away and the dolphinarium was left unsupervised. It was a rainy day. The whole pool was bathed in darkness.

Well, I spoke to you for a long time, Iris, do you remember? Leaning over the pool I promised you, like an idiot, that I was going to set you free. That you were going to return to your friends, family, all of those from whom man had wrenched you away when you were twelve years old… I also told you that your son would go with you and that both of you, would finally swim straight ahead like mad things, against the waves, in the wind, and that the burning sun would once more warm your pale skin.

And I really believed it, you know, at the time! Everything seemed so simple !
Three captured dolphins had just been released from the last English gaols and it seemed obvious to everyone that you and your child would also swim in the open sea, and all the more so because you were ‘born free’ i.e. perfectly capable of readapting to the wild !

Then the famous campaign of 1995-1998, the great moment of solidarity, when many organisations, both Belgian and others, made a plea in favour of the liberation of the dolphins from Antwerp and at the time Ric O’Barry expressed these words during a press conference held at his Brussels hotel on 17th December 1998 :

« If you send these dolphins to Duisburg you will be condemning them to a certain death. The Antwerp Zoo has already caused the death of 29 innocent dolphins.
Today we have a real possibility to save the two last survivors, on the sole condition that M. Fred Daman accepts to entrust them to us.
I will make a place available today for them » .

On saying this Ric showed the press a photo of a little tropical beach
and an enclosed bay where the dolphin Stephania still swims today.

« Of course, he added, Iris and Ivo cannot be released back into the wild at once. But after so many years confined in a bare pool, they will finally be able to rediscover the taste of salt water and the plankton, the movement of the waves, the rain, the wind, the algae, the sand, live fish… Later, if it seems possible that they would be able to cope with the open sea, then, we would release them safely.
This is the best solution from the point of view of the dolphins and I hope that the director of the zoo will realise this ».

Well, the Director
did not realise it.
One fine morning our dolphins were sent off to their new prison even further inland, even further away from their familiar oceans… Duisburg, a decaying little village in Germany stuck between two motorways at the bottom of the Ruhr valley, dark and polluted…

Now we had to journey 3 hours from Belgium and 3 hours to return, to visit our deeply distressed friends and photograph their degradation.
Beyond this evil zoo full of psychotic tigers, monkeys and elephants, they also had a solitary beluga and his friend the porpoise in a dilapidated open air pool and further on the pit, the bubble of darkness, the pool where Iris killed herself slowly but surely under everyone’s eyes and no-one reacted…

These appalling, humiliating shows, which one has to pay an entrance fee to see… I remember the day in 1999 when we saw our dolphins again for the first time. I could have cried with anger, Ivo’s rostrum was bloody due to fighting with his competitor Play Boy (now dead) and Iris, close to him, remained immobile. They were there in the corner of their small side pool itself closed by a grill.
They were terrified. This was already the end for them. And they knew it. However, it was only 1999.

We returned there several times and every time they had got worse, every time Iris was a little less mobile, a little more alone, more desperate than the time before. But she looked at us all the same and came to greet us when we approached, scaling the sides of her miniscule pool, despite the reproaches of the aggressive trainers who ended up throwing us out.
By 2002 it was all too much. I did not have the courage to go again myself and had to be content with testimony from third parties or the ‘agents on the spot’.

Therefore I did not see Iris again.
I did not say good-bye to her as she was dying. But I would like to say that it was through her that I discovered the horrors of the dolphinarium, it is through her that I came to understand what the term non- human person meant. Iris was a courageous being and good, noble and intelligent, a thousand times superior to the human apes without scruples who had continued to torture her for so many years , I am proud to have known her.

But her death has changed nothing.
We are still fighting, all her friends and me, to save her son Ivo, Daisy, Duke, Pepina and all of the thousands of captures dolphins suffering world-wide.

Human dignity is at stake in this fight.

YG 2003

Iris à Anvers Photo YG

Iris et Ivo à Anvers, vers 1998. Photo Gazet Van Antwerpen

Iris et Ivo
Iris et Ivo en 98

le grand hall
Iris en train de mourir. Photo Jean Pierre Von der Bergh, qui fut de tous les voyages chez Iris...

A big  thank to Karen Trevayne
who translates this text in good English.

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February 2003 : last news of iris and Ivo

Just before she died... No one did anything to save her...

In the dark cold Duisburg Zoo’s aquarium, Iris and Ivo, the two former last Antwerp’s dolphins, are still alive. They recently had to cope with important significant health problems. Both of them seem to have get a cold during this winter but it’s OK now. 

On the other hand, Ivo still must swallow four litres of fresh water each days, two times a day. Dolphins are not supposed to drink but we know that Ivo is suffering a serious kidneys’ problem since Antwerp Zoo’s time.

Iris receives also special care but for other reasons.
Each day, twice per day, trainers smear her dorsal fin and her back with Vaseline.
We do not know why but we can suppose it’s because Iris
did not plunge any more for three years.
Permanently floating at the surface of her little basin as a dead log, suffering from this classical psychic trouble that Ric O’Barry named  « Captive Dolphin Depression Syndrome » (CDDS), she exposes the top of her body in the fresh air for years, so her skin is probably desiccating like the skin of a stranded dolphin.

R.I.P Duke…

The four other dolphins are in rather good health.  
Among them, Little Duke, the captive-born son of Pepina and Ivo, who is now sixteen months old. He is already sexually teasing the females, as do all the small calves in the seas. Of course, there is a difference. His playmates will be always the same ones, his mother, his sisters, his old grand ma who never moves out of her water hole and the huge dominating male Ivo. One day, if he ever survives, Duke will have to leave this place for another facility, where he will be separated forever from his mother and family.
If he ever survives… (Duke died some months afterwards).



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Iris’ baby died

The baby of Iris was born on last monday (April 10 2000) and died after 33 hours. He did not drink. This dolphin death is the third in less than one year and the 47th since the opening of Duisburg Zoo. Now the question is : how does Iris feel ?

 More news to come.

You can send your comments to the dolphins responsible person :

Duisburg Zoo Director
Dr Frese
Mülheimerstrasse 273
47058 Duisburg
Tel 0049 203/305590
Fax /3055922


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Thu, March 30 2000

Dolphin died at Duisburg Zoo, Germany

Yesterday, 29th March 2000, the male dolphin “Playboy” died in the age of 25 at the Duisburg Zoo. Hepatitis is stated to be the cause of death.
The Zoo has a sad history and record by keeping whales and dolphins captive.
At least 45 animals have died since the Zoo started to display these social and fascinating animals in the tiny concrete tanks.
Just a few weeks before “Playboy” another young male dolphin called “Duphy” died in the same facility.
In Germany there are still four institutions displaying captive whales and dolphins. WDCS believes that there is no legitimation for keeping these animals captive and calls for an ending of the imprisonment of any cetacea.

A message from WDCS

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Duisburg’s slaughter keeps going on

Playboy is dying !

March 25 2000

Two weeks ago, I was in Duisburg Zoo with some friends of CETUS and DELPHUS associations in order to survey the situation of Iris and Ivo. When arrived in town, we saw that the local German press was abundantly speaking of Playboy agony. He died two or three days after.

In the tank, everything seemed rather normal : Ivo was performing his show alongside with Pepina (pregnant) and the two younger she-dolphins, Delphy ( pregnant ) and Daisy who did not stop to wait for her absent father .

Daisy waiting for her dead father

Iris is supposed to be delivered of her child very soon – if not yet.
We were recently told she was put out her mini lateral pool that she had not left for one year, since the day of her arrival. She seemed to me tired and weak. Iris is more or less 31years old. A delivery could be lethal for her, said some Belgian veterinarians in a Belgian Television broadcast some weeks ago.

Will she be the next victim of the Big Duisburg Butchery ?

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Early March 2000

Second Generation Captive Born Baby

The Iris’ baby was not yet born but Iris was no more participating to any show. She stays in the old pool in order to be quiet. It’s not sure that the baby will survive, because of her « advanced’ age.

Because of Duphi death last year and since Playboy was separated from the others – he’s ill – Ivo performs with Pepina the main part of the show. He seems well for now and the staff makes the maximum to keep our two friends in good health, particularly Manuel  Hartman, the veterinarian.
Of course, Ivo is now a « stalion » and will travel soon through Europa in order to make other babies…

Delphy, on her side, will give birth soon also and here, we are sure
that Ivo is the father. Television crew is waiting for this « big moment » since this child to come will be the « second generation captive born baby « .

A big « symbolic victory » for dolphin slavers, who desperately try to convince us dolphin breeding is a sustainable solution…..

Message  received from German friends


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January 4th 2000
Iris is pregnant, Duphi is dead

Following a fax we sent to him in December, the Director of Duisburg Zoo, Dr R.FRESE sent us the following Informations:

– Three female dolphins are pregnant in Duisburg Zoo.
Contrary to what Antwerp Zoo said some weeks ago, Duisburg Director believes that the male DUPHI who died two weeks ago had fathered the Antwerp female Iris and not her own son, Ivo.
In 2002, Zoo staff will be able to get blood from the awaited dolphin for doing fingertip examination – if this animal will survive. DUPHI had a very close social connection to Iris and therefore Dr Frese believes that he had fathered her.

– For a long time now, Iris is allowed to swim where she wants but
she prefers to stay in  » her  » pool.
Her behavior is similar to that of an older « grandma  » sitting on her chair waiting for a lot of people visiting her. For quite a few months, she is been socialized to the other dolphins who are visiting her.

– The death of DUPHI, an 11-year-old male dolphin, could not have been avoided because he suffered an abscess outside the lounge close to the heart. Due to his bad conditions caused by bacteria, this abscess could not be treated to the end. The actual cause of death was a shock.


We are touched by the fact Dr Frese answered my questions: it’s a first step to possible and civilized exchanges between zookeepers and activists and we’ll try to go further on this way.
Nevertheless, the following questions remain:

After the births of these three calves, Duisburg Zoo will receive 9 dolphins in the same pool. What will  be the future of these calves? Will they be sold or exchanged with other zoos or will they remain with mothers?

What will happen to Ivo and Play Boy, the dominant males?
It’s generally impossible to keep males together with young babies. Then to which place will they be sent?
What is the use of such dolphin breeding, knowing that these new calves will never be returned to the free sea and that TURSIOPS TRUNCATUS is not an endangered species that could justify such breeding practices ?

The death of DUPHI is a new proof that it’s almost impossible to lead a calve to the adult age in captivity conditions. Duphi was just a juvenile; he died at 11 and not at 3O, like most of other males in the wild.

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September 25th 1999 

Iris remains alone…


This September 25th 1999, for the third time, we were visiting Iris and Ivo in their new Duisburg Zoo tank.

For those who didn’t follow this story from the beginning, let’s remind that Iris and Ivo are two tursiops dolphins, caught in the Mexican Gulf in 1981.

After having spent 18 years in the narrow lethal tank of Antwerp’s Zoo delphinarium (29 dolphins died there) and despite a huge and long-lasting campaign sustained by the CFN, they were finally sent to Duisburg Zoo tanks where five captive dolphins – including a fierce dominant male called Playboy – were already living.

During five months, the situation was really bad and dangerous for them: Iris and Ivo were confined and isolated in a minuscule lateral tank and seemed to be in great danger. Playboy didn’t accept any newcomer in his yet-too-little realm.


Now, in September, things seemed to be improving.
We noted that during the afternoon show, Ivo was the new star: he performed a lot of incredible jumps and pirouettes, now made possible by the depth of the pool, and seemed to play the role of the « funny dolphin of the band » (just arrived from Belgium, indicated the German speaker) in front of a large audience mainly composed by children.
Ivo looked really fine and healthy, stronger than the previous time we saw him. He swam among the five other dolphins, completely mixed with them and socializing with Playboy.

Iris, on her side, didn’t change very much her depressive attitude. She remained in her lateral little tank but now, there are no fences any more. She could go and swim in the large tank if she wanted but she’s still too
shy for trying that. During the show, from far, she imitated slowly and faintly the gestures of others. She looked tired and spent most of show’s time looking at the others from the open « doorstep » of her little tank.

A young dolphin-trainer, a girl, was taking care of her, stroking her head and throwing some toys to her. For instance, Iris was pushing a little helix with her rostrum in her corner  – when all other dolphins were jumping high in the air – but of course, nobody in the audience even noticed here poor little trick.

At the end of the show, when all dolphins were breaking up and playing spontaneously here and there with balloons, we saw Ivo and two young she-dolphins entering the little annex tank and visiting Iris. The young dolphin-trainer told us Iris was often receiving such visits and that the young she-dolphins were becoming friends for her.
So, she’s less isolated than before and we may suppose that she will progressively enter the large pool and integrate herself into the little group.

Now, what will be the future of our last Antwerp’s dolphins?
Iris and Ivo will probably die in captivity but at least, they won’t die all alone in this terrifying dark « death corridor » of Antwerp’s Zoo, now happily closed forever.


Iris in Antwerp in 1998

Surrounded buy other dolphins, swimming in a deeper and larger pool, receiving more attentive cares, Iris and Ivo are surely not « happy ». Nobody could be happy in jail. There are just captive dolphins: their free dolphin mind and culture were completely broken by 18 years of whistled orders and daily training. They were caught violently from the wild, they were carried by plane and truck, they saw dozen of their friends slowly dying near them, and now, despite of this artificial captive life, they seemed almost having found something like a « balance ». Something like « peace ».

So, the question is : owing to the fact of these new restored social conditions, is it still useful to keep fighting for their rehabilitation?
Wouldn’t a global rehabilitation of the seven Duisburg dolphins all together rather be the only good solution ? And do we really get a reliable place and team for that?

Anyway, one thing is sure when you consider the tragic fate of Iris and Ivo:
For all these 3000 captive dolphins surviving all over the world, these captive orca’s, Pacific dolphins or belugas who are still suffering in jail, for these Arabian dolphins dying in their moving circus, it’s not enough to make close their jail and then go.
We must also care  about what they will become AFTERWARDS their facility closure.


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June 28 th 1999
Ivo´s health conditions are good

Ivo dolphin


As a result of our action, things seem to be improving at Duisburg Zoo.
Here is a recent message from a German activist  :

« Ivo´s health conditions are excellent.
Iris, her health conditions have not been the best at arrival, but her health condition is improving as well.
Ivo is already joining Duphi and Delphi for several weeks and has access to the two isolation tanks as well as the breeding area (which is located in the old dolphinarium) most of the day.
Iris is not showing much interest to socialize with the other animals, but we (-the Zoo-) are sure that we will manage this without making pressure on her.
Over the next few weeks we will also involve Playboy and Peppina and the
calf Daisy to join the two newcomers.

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May 30 1999

When Mr. Fred Daman decided to send the two last Antwerp’s Zoo captive dolphins, Iris and Ivo, he declared : « This is the only one and best solution for them : they will swim in a huge pool with a lot of new friends ! »

Oh yes ?

This Sunday May 30, we went for the second time to Duisburg Zoo in order to check if Iris and Ivo were in good health and well. We regret to be obliged to say IT’S NOT THE CASE.

Iris and Ivo situation is really dramatic.
For more than two months, they are confined in a lateral little pool (5 meters x 5 meters x 3 meters-deep, more or less) close near the larger rocky one but separated by a netting from the five others dolphins, Play-Boy, the dominant male, his wife Pepina and their three children, Duphi, Delphi and Daisy.

Ivo rostrum is wounded and bloody because he hits too much against the metallic gate separating the two pools. Ivo and Iris fins are flaccid as they were depressive. The room is dark. No more sun here than in Antwerp. And much less space than before.

When the show is going on, Iris and Ivo try to clumsily mimic the gestures with poor movements. Their main concern seems to draw dolphin-trainers attention to them. Sometimes, one of these girls rapidly throws them a fish to them, make them jump one or two times then forget them completely.

When we talked to these trainers, they told us there is a big problem between PlayBoy and Ivo.

Play Boy refuses to put up with more people in his domain and we can understand him because his pool is just large and deep enough (?) for five dolphins. Iris stays near her son. So nobody moves.

We left this awful place with a heavy heart, letting our two friends tightly packed in their new dark little jail…after 18 years of complete captivity !

Let’s add this Duisburg’s little zoo owns also two Amazonian river dolphins confined in an little aquarium, two belugas obliged to perform a ridiculous show and one Jacobita dolphin.

Officially, 45 dolphins died at Duisburg.



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March 30 1999

Iris and Ivo were finally sent to Duisburg dolfinarium on March 30 1999 after having spent 18 years in the same pool.
 » As the Zoo has no money enough in order to enlarge their tank following the « next Century American receiving norms » – said Ilse Segers, the Antwerp’s Zoospokeswoman to a « Gazet van Antwerpen » journalist –  » we decided to send them to Duisburg ».

The tank was progressively emptied, then the dolphins were put in special stretchers made for their size and they were carried in a lorry for a 3 hours long ride.

Iris and Ivo were given a tranquillizer.
Annemie, their personal trainer, was with them during the trip, speaking to them and calming them down.
She is now staying in Duisburg for some days, in order to check Iris and Ivo’s good adaptation.

In this aim, Iris and Ivo were sent with their « own toys and personal objects » as balls, frisbees, and plastic rings from their fromer pool.
The frozen fish diet they received when arriving in Duisburg (and that they were told to have eaten with appetite) was the same diet than in Antwerp’s Zoo.

Philippe Jouk, the responsible person in charge of the dolphins said to the Press :
–  » Of course, it was senseless to think about rehabilitating them, as some activists were claiming for. Iris and Ivo would have SURELY die in the wild, they are now well better in their new bigger tank, with their new friends. They are now living again like in a pod ».

Newpapers Gazet van Antwerpen adds that if you buy a ticket for Antwerp Zoo, you are allowed to visit Duisburg too, where « our flippers » are awaiting for you.
More recently (early April), we get some fresher news from Delphus Belgian activists who just came back from Duisburg Zoo as well as from M.E.E.R German association :

– Iris and Ivo are now enclosed in a very little pool beside a larger one, where 5 dolphins are living : two adults (father and mother) and three children.
One of the child is told to be six-months aged.
Children seem healthy and play together all around the large pool.

– During the show time, Iris and Ivo are supposed to watch what happens by their side and try to imitate the new movements they are suposed to learn with the « help » of a second trainer.

Iris and Ivo seem still afraid.
For almost one week, they didn’t venture yet to enter the larger pool.
They seem upset and unhappy for now.

Even if the Duisburg facilty is certainly a better place for them than the awfull Antwerp’s one, because of the ozone water filtration system and the very large size of their new pool, we hope sincerely that Iris and Ivo will integrate themselves into this tight bond dolphin family who lives in this Duisburg Zoo tank for some years.

Following Manuel Hartmann, the main Duisburg Zoo veterinarian, Iris and Ivo are fine and quite happier than before.
After so many years with humans, it’s sure dolphins are deeply attached to their trainers, like all long-time human inmates in jail.
It’s sure it’s an usual life for them, an usual place and it’s easy to say : – « Leave them alone, now.  They don’t need freedom, they LIKE captivity… »

HOWEVER, owing to what the most scientific cognitive ethology tells about dolphin consciousness :

– Iris as well as Ivo keep a precise memory of their own past.
Iris was 12 years old and Ivo 1/2 or 2 when they caught them and separate them from their pod.
So they must clearly remind their family and dream at night about free dolphins friends in an open sea, with waves and sun and wind and empty sky above their head.

After more than 20 years of captivity, Missie, Silver, Rocky, Bahama Mamma or so many others « old captive dolphins » amazingly succeeded in their quick rehabilitation.
Dolphins are sufficiently intelligent and mentally flexible for adapting their behaviour and live easily in the wild, even after many jail years.
So, it’s NOT too late for Iris and Ivo and even if we are happy to know they feel better now, we stil suggest to Duisburg Zoo to offer them a real sea water environnment, real sun and living fishes, something more than plastic toys, daily shows and concrete walls…
This sunny Rehabilitation place exists in France on a an island, and
is still waiting for them…

To the top 

February 2002


Iris à Anvers

For a few months, and despite of a total absence of any recent news concerning Iris’ health, the situation of the she-dolphin at Duisburg seems to arouse a new dash of sympathy and solidarity on the international level… once again !

The petition written in favour of Iris by a woman named Caroline Legrand, which text was translated by Natacha Zana, then by Herma Caelen and largely widespread is knowing an increasing success today.

Not less than 1.300 people had already signed this moving
call on February 8, 2002, including Annelise Sorg, president of the Canadian association No Whale in Captivity.

Many sites are refering today to the tragic case of our Iris friend and not the least : Pam « Love the Whales » offers us, as always, a wonderful artistic view of the event, Animal-Net is widespreading Iris’ fame all around the world, SOS Dauphins Québec  speaks about Iris
with a nice music, while Ric O’ Barry, the former trainer of Flipper, specialist of dolphin-rehabilitation, devotes to his turn a page on his site about the problem of Iris’confinement.

It will be noted in particular that this page concludes that, according to any probability, Iris will end her days at Duisburg.
It is an opinion coming from an expert, which could thus not be neglected.

Why did we make all these petitions, then ? All these protests for so many years, if a return to the free sea is impossible for Iris ? What shall we do with this new move of solidarity ?

It’s now time to clarify our position and to point out the direction our fight is going on.
The final aim of this last Iris Campaign – at least, for the owner of this site –  is NOT to criticize the Zoo of Duisburg not even to condamn the scandalous sluaghter conducted by the Dolphin Industry but only to save, here and now, in a very concrete way, ONE individual from a grim mortifying announced death.

This individual is a dolphin-person whose circus’ name is « Iris ».
She’s only thirty two years old and she’s able to live much more.
Even if one spends his life in a jail, no one wants to die and Iris no more than others.
We JUST want to save it, we want to
extend her life-time and to make it happier. But how?


Several solutions exist, from the most feasible to the most dreamy

1. Immediate solutions without excessive expenses for the Zoo.
We quoted in another text various methods which could be applied in order to « wake up » Iris from her depression and to give her again some taste for life.
psychotropic medication must be used, of course.
We are sure that a reliable and respectfull scientific intrespecies communication program, for instance, such as the one Project Delphis is conducting in Hawaii, with the help of underwater infra-red Carolltouch touch screen or any other intellectually stimulating program would undoubtedly help to improve Iris’ mental state.

Let’s remind that EVEN the huge « American Association of Zoos and Aquariums » is
recommending this type of practice and devotes many pages to the techniques of Environmental Enrichment ( EE) on its site.

According the opinion of the « Behavior and Husbandry Advisory Group « , this kind of EE quality standards will be added among the necessary standards for Zoo accreditation as soon as May 2002. It is thus quite curious that Duisburg Zoo Duisburg, which depends on this American association for all the technical services it needs, doesn’t pay any attention to this highly encouraged criterion.

2.  Medium-term solutions
The building of some « retirement lagoons » in adapted saline marshes, for instance somewhere in the french Rivera (Ile des Embiez), would allow a important population of so-called « old dolphins » to benefite a better living conditions in natural seawater, sun and fresh air.

These solutions are ALSO sometimes proposed by the Zoos or circuses themselves in favour of many of their « worn-out animals » but never for captive cetaceans.
Let’ note however that these « retirement lagoons » are not
without potential risk : the temptation is great for some commercial people to trun this palces into some kind of little « Eïlat » devoted to therapy, dolphin shows and tourism.

3. Long-term solutions
To bring back Iris (and Ivo) back into their native ocean was our first aim during a long time, when it was still possible.
Today, considering Iris’ state of exhaustion and the long years she spent among human people, we are afraid Iris could not stand a new transport.

Aerial transport from a basin to another is extremely traumatic for any captive dolphin.
Morevoer, Iris found a new social environment, even weakly supportive, in her small basin of Duisburg.
To send Iris all alone far away,
far from her son and her friends, would also undoubtedly kill it.
We must thus consider thaht it’s all the Duisburg’s pool and its content we must move to a new better place and maybe rehabilitate, id est : Iris, Ivo, Pepina, Daisy and all the other cetaceans of Duisburg, including the lonely beluga, the Commerson dolphin and the two River dolphins.

Why not? But only a true miracle could concretize this dream !
Rather than to swim with the prisoners of Dolphin Quest, let us imagine that Britney Spear would be touched by Iris’ fate, or Bill Gates, or Michaël Jackson….. and they decide to help her !
Then, yes, of course, in a few weeks, an intermediate lagoon would be installed, in a few
months, our dolphins would have recoverd health and good mmood, and at the end of the same year, they all would swim gladly in the green waters of the Mexican Gulf!
Missy, Rocky and Silver had spent long and heavy years in jail too and yet, their rehabilitation was a complete success.

We easily understand why Duisburg Zoo is irritated by arguments.
For the responsible persons in charge of this facility, as for a large part of the public opinion, Iris’s fate is not at all a tragedy. She would have the advantage to be fed, nursed, protected in the best conceivable conditions.

It is not our opinion nor the opinion of anyone takes the pain to visit this place, to look at Iris and to interpret her body attitude with the scientific glance of an ethologist.
This « animal » is obviously desperate. She is letting herself go to a rapid death and nobody gives her any assistance nor seriously does anything in order to draw her from this depression

We perfectly know that dolphins die by thousands each day because of the drifting nets, we know that thousands of others are killed, driven out, captured by rough bloodthirsty men everywhere in the world, but that does change the fact that today, right now, at the time you read these lines, somewhere in a small and smoky town of Germany where she has nothing to do, an innocent she-dolphin called Iris, who lived before in the free sea, is now dying of despair and boredom…
For us, this suffering is as worthy of respect as any other.

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Iris and Ivo at Duisburg Zoo

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