The Dolphin Project has been working with Freedom for Dolphins and other groups in assessing the growing issue of captivity in Turkey. The governing authorities, namely the Turkish Prime Ministry and the Turkish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, have been ignoring the flagrant legal and ethical transgressions regarding dolphins within their borders and coastal waters.
Despite pressure from a growing local and international movement of dolphin-welfare advocates, government officials and powerful members of the captivity industry insist on illegally exploiting dolphins for profit.
There are a total of 10 captive facilities currently operating in Turkey, all of which keep captive, often wild-caught dolphins on perpetual display and force them into the servitude of unaware tourists. These facilities offer swim-with programs, as well as Dolphin Assisted Therapy – both of which are based on false notions that being in physical proximity with dolphins is healthy, educational and safe.
“Turkey has an opportunity to help dolphins and enhance its reputation in the world as a country sensitive to the protection of marine mammals,” says Ric O’Barry, campaign director of the Dolphin Project. “The captive facilities should be closed down permanently, with the dolphins rehabilitated and released back into the wild where they belong.”
There are several notorious cases within Turkey that have sparked international public outcry. The story of Tom and Misha is a sad, yet hopeful one. These two dolphins, captured from the Turkish seas, suffered an arduous journey as they were transported, in the back of a vegetable truck, to the Kaş Dolphin Park where they were trained to swim with tourists. They were then transported to a pool at a commercial mountain resort in Hisarönü. While in the painfully small and filthy pool, which came to be known as ‘the pond of shame’ by activists, these dolphins were made to constantly entertain throngs of people who were put at considerable risk by being exposed to the filthy water.
After international outrage at the situation, and many months of effective campaigning by local and British organizations, Tom and Misha were transported to a natural sea pen in Gökova, where they are currently undergoing rehabilitation with the help of the Born Free Foundation.
More recently, 4 dolphins, named Ada, Doga, West and Ada 1, who were being held at a dolphinarium in Bodrum-Güvercinlik, were moved to the KaşDolphin Park in early December 2011. These four bear not only the physical scars of maltreatment, with numerous cuts around their beaks and faces, but also the less obvious but ever-present emotional and psychological scars. The group Freedom for Dolphins, upon discovering this transfer, put pressure on the responsible ministries and the Municipality of Kaş, with local and international supporters on their side. The municipality stated that there were no license applications made to them from Kaş Dolphin Park, so the dolphins stayed in the rusty sea-pen of the Kaş Dolphin Park, where they remain for the time being. There is a chance that these dolphins can be rehabilitated and released, as is the case for Tom and Misha.
As if this weren’t enough, another 3 dolphins have been moved to the facility at Bodrum-Güvercinlik on the 26th of December. It is speculated that these dolphins were brought in to replace the 4 who are now in Kaş. These three were said to be brought into the country using falsified documents.
Despite being a signatory to the Bern Convention, which prohibits the capture, keeping and transport of live or dead cetaceans, the Turkish government regularly flouts this internationally recognized legislation. Members of the captivity industry exploit loopholes and purposefully misrepresents the truth in order to continue their business, for example by labelling imported live dolphins as ‘aquarium fish’. Meanwhile, the governing bodies sit idly by.
“The Turkish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, the Turkish Prime Ministry and all other parties involved in these illegal activities should heed the call of thousands of people, within Turkey and across the globe, who are requesting that the authorities begin to act responsibly,” says Mr. O’Barry. “The first step is to alleviate the suffering of the Kaş and Bodrum captives; then to shut down the operations of the captive facilities; and finally to enact appropriate legislation which will protect wild dolphins from future capture.”
You can help. Please sign and share the petition, and stay tuned for updates from Freedom for Dolphins.
For more information, see these articles in both Turkish and English: