Dolphinarium opens this week

| 08/12/2008

(CNS): Despite opposition in the community following the transfer of four dolphins to the new Dolphin Discovery facility in West Bay, it is expected to open for business this week. With the dolphins’ arrival in Cayman on Thursday 4 December, the owners of the captive facility, Gene Thompson and Dale Crighton, invited the press to come see the animals settle in to the pools on Friday 5 December.

Showing visitors around the captive facility and showing off the dolphins on Friday, the two owners, who were clearly delighted to have their star attractions safely in the water, said they were expecting to open sometimethis week as the dolphins were settling in very well. Acknowledging that not everyone supports the concept, both Crighton and Thompson were at pains to stress the quality of life the dolphins would have.

“We have the highest standards here, the best professional trainers and vets,” Crighton said. “Each dolphin is given a special diet and all the food is restaurant grade. These dolphins will be very well cared for and loved.”

Thompson said that the trainers had laid at the pools on mats and slept by the dolphins’ side during their first night at the facility so they would be there for the animals if they were to become distressed in anyway as a result of the move from Tortola, where they had been held for the last few years, to their new permanent home in the Cayman Islands. According to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the transportation experience is exceptionally stressful for dolphins.

The owners noted that the dolphins are already used to interacting with people and they do not need to be trained but are ready to swim with visitors. Crighton explained that at any given time, if the dolphins don’t want to interact, their handlers will just let them be. He explained that even when the two extra dolphins arrive and they have the full compliment of 8 animals there will never be more than 190 people swimming in the pools during the course of any given day.

“That’s the maximum, but most days there won’t be anywhere near that number, and if they don’t want to do work, they don’t have to. But for dolphins, swimming and interacting with people is not work, it’s what they love to do,” he said.

According to the owners of the facility, the dolphins don’t perform tricks but interact with swimmers displaying their normal behaviour. Crighton said each visitor is given a comprehensive orientation about dolphins before they are taken into the pools and there are strict guidelines about how visitors can interact with the animals.

Asked about the discharge of waste, which has also caused controversy, Crighton said that with 15,000 gallons of sea water pushed through the pool’s systems, eight dolphins on a diet of fresh fish will produce a negligent amount of waste. He said unlike the turtle farm there is no food waste as the dolphins are fed by hand directly and consume a measured amount of food. He said the ’pooh’ would be entirely diluted and would not cause any problems to the local reefs.

Opposition to this and another dolphinarium, due to open shortly on the North Sound near Morgan’s Harbour, has been diverse. The local Keep Dolphins Free Campaign has raised the issues surrounding the cruelty of keeping wild creatures captive and what they describe as the abusive nature of the industry; environmentalists have raised concerns about waste damage to surrounding reefs; and the members of CITA have noted that his type of attraction, which is being phased out in many other destinations, does not fit well with Cayman’s image of a high-end luxury destination.




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