Story of Iris and Ivo
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From the Gulf of Mexico to a
Iris was born thirty years ago in the warm waters of the Gulf
of Mexico off the coast of Central America.
She lived in the wild for the first thirteen years of her life,
in the bosom of a group (pod) of several dozen individuals.
Then she gave birth to her son Ivo, who she was still probably
nursing on the day of their capture.
The hunters’ methods are simple and brutal. Abusing their
trust, they approach a group of dolphins.
They separate the youngest from the adults by frightening them
with several explosions and seize them with nets.
That day, Iris, Ivo, and two other dolphins, Illias and Ina, were
removed in order to be sold to the Antwerp Zoo.
They were transported to the airport in a canvas stretcher.
Water was poured on their bodies and cream was spread on their
head so that the skin didn’t dry out.
Accustomed to low marine gravity, the weight of the body is heavy
to bear, and their breathing becomes rapidly labored.
The voyage must be made quickly.
Stiff and covered with sores, Iris, Ivo, Illias, and Ina finally
arrived in Europe then to Antwerp (Belgium), on March 3, 1981.
Their captive life begins in the decrepit, maladapted, and at
that time overpopulated facilities.
Since the day of its opening in 1969, the dolphinarium had
already seen the deaths of eighteen dolphins.
In all, at least twenty-nine cadavers have been removed from the
28-meter pool where today the last survivors turn round.
So now, for more than seventeen years they have performed
approximately the same daily shows – a longevity record that none
of their companions ever exceeded.
Whatever care is lavished upon them, an impending death is
inevitable for our two veterans in the present conditions of
However, one alternative exists that would allow these
dolphins to happily live still for a very long time: Their return
to the wild.
II. BACK INTO THE BLUE
Returning Iris and Ivo to the wild is perfectly feasible.
At thirty years of age, Iris is in the prime of her life – some
dolphins reach fifty years of age – and Ivo is still young.
Their health isn’t too bad, their disposition not too dismal, but
two conditions are nevertheless necessary in order for this
liberation to be a success:
On one hand, the right thing is to take the dolphins back to
their original waters or to a place that is climatically
comparable to that which they knew, to know a tropical coastal
On the other hand, one must first proceed to their careful
rehabilitation, in a closed marina fed by seawater (sea pen).
During this phase, the dolphins must relearn their daily
movements (to fish, to swim in deep water, to socialize with
other dolphins) and unlearn all the conditioning that their
trainers imposed on them.
Iris will recognize, without any trouble, the waters of her
childhood, where she lived for more than ten years.
Perhaps, she will find herself, by chance, one or another of the
members of her original « pod ».
As for Ivo, he will adapt himself with more difficulty to this
marine world where he lived for such a short time, but his mother
will help him, without a doubt, to rediscover it with patience.