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End of dolphinaria: what future for captive cetaceans?

Reading time : 2 minutes

Wild dolphins and killer whales have plenty of fun to jump on. The new law against animal abuse greatly limits the risk of ending their life in a dolphinarium. But should cetaceans already captive be happy?

On September 29, 2020, the announcement falls as big news for animal welfare advocates. Barbara Pompili, newly appointed Minister for the Ecological Transition, affirms her desire to end dolphinariums. This ambition is reflected in the drafting of a bill to strengthen the fight against animal abuse.

The National Assembly votes on the text on January 29. From 2027, French parks will be completely prohibited from keeping wild cetaceans, dolphins or killer whales, in captivity.. And by extension, the shows and reproduction of these species will be prohibited. But the question of the fate of captive animals continues to fuel the debate.

No systematic release

The 25 January 2021, Parc Asterix notifies the closure of its dolphinarium. As of this date, the amusement park has eight dolphins. They must leave the premises during the first quarter of 2021. The problem: cetaceans will not be reintroduced into their natural environment, but transferred to European dolphinariums "Recognized by scientific and governmental bodies". The reason is simple: these animals have lived too long locked up to be able to join their wild companions.

We are therefore entitled to ask a question: does the end of dolphinariums offer a better future for marine mammals until now housed in animal parks? Because if the decision does protect wild cetaceans, what about individuals who have lived, or even were born, in captivity? And who no longer know how to defend themselves or hunt for food ...

Sanctuary or dolphinarium, same fight?

Like the dolphins of Parc Astérix, the animals of the two other parks equipped with dolphinariums (Planète Sauvage and Marineland) will not all be released. Some might go through temporary reception sites, called "refuges", with a view to ending their days at sea… But others, whose state of health or behavior is judged to be inadequate, will be transferred to "Sanctuaries", definitive places of reception. Only these refuges and sanctuaries will therefore be authorized to keep cetaceans captive.

Some animal rights organizations are already opposing government solutions. Like the association C'est Enough, as reported by the 30 Million Friends Foundation: “ For dolphins, this is extremely bad news. Transported by trucks, they will arrive in unknown pools, separated from their companions in misfortune and their healers. A huge trauma! », She believes.

Another question: the solution of dolphinariums recognized by the European authorities may not be sufficient, due to lack of space. If so, will the dolphins or killer whales end their journey in parks abroad that do not enforce such strict legislation that promotes their well-being? The fight for the future of captive cetaceans is far from over.

© t0m15 - stock.adobe.com

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