A dolphinarium is being heavily criticised after one of its baby dolphins died as a result of being overworked.
The tragic incident happened during a live performance in the city of Varna on the Bulgarian Black sea earlier this month, BTV Novinite reports.
One spectator, Bisser Lyubenov, told the publication, as per the BBC: ‘There was a disturbance, the dolphins stopped playing and performing tricks,’ adding that visitors were then asked to leave.
Visitors could reportedly see the body of the baby dolphin from the park’s café, according to another witness’ account.
However, the dolphinarium has denied that the death happened during a live show and in front of children, as reported by witnesses.
Tsvetan Stanev, a biologist who works at the tourist attraction, said the baby and its mother had been separated from the other dolphins since the calf’s birth.
As reported by the BBC, he said:
You can’t have a mother leaving its child in order to take part in the show. This can happen about six months after the birth.
A baby dolphin taking part in performances nine days after it was born – this has never happened in this dolphinarium.
However, concerns for the safety of the animals at the facility continue to grow after six animals – five dolphins and one seal – have died at the park in the last five years, a mortality rate which is said to be much higher than in similar marine parks.
Yavor Gechev, from the animal protection organisation Four Paws explained:
This means categorically that conditions don’t meet even the minimal standards for keeping such animals.
The animals are struggling there, they are not surviving.
Since news of the devastating incident broke on social media, outraged animal lovers have launched a petition calling for the closure of the park.
Sharing the petition on Facebook, one signer wrote:
I saw the show once and I’m still horrified about the way the dolphins get treated! It’s clear that a big profit is made at the expense of the animals who are forced to perform too often.
Just days after the poor creature’s death, Four Paws revealed a group of lawmakers in Bulgaria have proposed a change in animal protection laws to allow live show’s to involve the two sea lions which are currently only used to ‘kiss’ tourists for pictures.
If shows involving sea lions are allowed to happen, this will be hell for the animals.
Lawmakers need to change the way they think and consider banning or limiting the existing performances with dolphins instead.
These days it is globally recognised that it is harmful for cetaceans to be held in captivity, due to their socially complex nature which requires the freedom of the sea.
As whole, Europe has been leaning towards the closure of such facilities, which the exception of Spain, where there are still high numbers of captive dolphins.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining the LADbible Group team in 2017.