Over the past two years, there has been a growing wave of concern globally regarding cruelty shown to marine mammals in captivity.
Whilst worldwide, growing opposition to marine mammals in captivity increasingly threatens this unacceptable commercial practice (and thankfully so!), in Russia it is just the opposite: this tragic "entertainment industry" is growing rapidly.
What Is Happening To Dolphins and Orcas Right Now in Russia There are now 43 stationary dolphinariums in Russia, holding approximately 160 bottlenose dolphins and 60 beluga whales. In the near future, three more new facilities are scheduled to open: two dolphinariums in Novosibirsk and Nizhny Novgorod, and the new Moscow Oceanarium at VDNKh.
Three orcas – Narnia, Nord and Juliet - were actually captured just for this new Moscow Oceanarium, which also announced that it had ordered dolphins from Japan. Even more oceanariums like the one in Moscow are being planned for Saint-Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod, along with 3 more dolphinariums in Rostov, Grozny and Ulyanovsk.
Worse still, the number of traveling dolphinariums are growing along with stationary ones. There are already twelve traveling dolphinariums in Russia. One of them is currently in Kazakhstan and another one in Belarus, with the consequence that 23 bottlenose dolphins and 12 beluga whales are living in the eternal never-ending stress of always being moved around the country in these traveling, tiny enclosures.
What These Commercial Enterprises Are Doing is Horrific For example, a Ukrainian company, "Nemo", just recently opened a traveling dolphinarium in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Ukraine law strictly forbids such practices, but there are no laws regarding marine mammal welfare in captivity either in Kazakhstan or Russia. In fact, traveling dolphinariums are banned in most countries, the exceptions being Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Indonesia.
Criticism abounds throughout the civilized world that the conditions are detestable in these marine mammals struggle day-in and day-out to endure in stationary dolphinariums: the lack of sufficient space for the dolphins to swim, hopelessly low water quality, and the stress created by these circumstances lead over and over again to the premature death of these beautiful, intelligent marine mammals.
The Special Tragedy of "Traveling Dolphinariums"
And that's just in stationary dolphinariums; without question the conditions are much worse in traveling dolphinariums. In these transportable "shows", marine mammals moved from city to city by trailer truck, spending long days in tiny tanks without any ability to move around. The animals do not receive proper care during transportation, suffering even more extreme stress during the time it takes to set up and dismantle the mobile pools and inflatable arenas.
On average, these mammals spend a week in these "traveling" tanks (set – 3 days, dismantling – 3 days, transportation – 1-2 days). And how long do these cycles repeat themselves? Well, a traveling dolphinarium tour usually lasts approx. six weeks , sheer torture for these animals in their tiny tanks, during their days of transportation and their 24/7 never-ending stress.
How bad can it get? One beluga whale named Dale died whilst touring, which occurred on September 4th, 2010, when the Moscow traveling dolphinarium performed in Kokshetau, Kazakhstan. The cause of death was heart problems, no doubt aggravated by the constant transportation. Afterwards, Dale's partner, a beluga named Lentochka, literally refused to perform after his death. Her fate? She disappeared later in 2010, and nobody knows whether she simply died or was moved elsewhere.
A big marine mammal just disappearing? In Russia dolphins can and do "disappear" as dolphinarium owners simply replace the dead dolphins with illegally purchased dolphins and the replacement mammals are just given the same name as the previous dead animal. So, no one knows because the replacements are kept secret. Who wins? Well there are always those who are willing to profit and deliver dolphins and beluga whales as replacements. Very much like the owners of these dolphinariums, they know full well that the authorities turn a blind eye and don't make any effort at all to keep track or monitor these activities. That's how things work in Russia. How many dolphins have died is simply not known.
How Bad Can It Get?
For that matter, no one truly knows the extent of the awful things occurring in Russian dolphinariums. But some terrible incidents have indeed come to light.
December 25, 2004, Saint-Petersburg.
Truck transporting a traveling dolphinarium was involved in a major traffic accident.
"The accident happened on Saturday afternoon on the Moscow-Petersburg highway. Fifty kilometers from Novgorod, one tractor trailer got into an accident with a heavy dump truck. Two people died. Animals injured. One of the dolphins washed up on the roadway from the hit. Rescuers have been waiting for almost 3 hours in the cold for the new tank. All this time the animals were watered from fire hydrants. Belugas were loaded onto a passing truck with a crane and sent home. Veterinarians and management staff of dolphinarium refused to comment on this incident. They reassured everyone that dolphins are alive and well, and immediately swimming as soon as they are unloaded. However, witnesses say that belugas were covered in blood when they got out of the tank".
February 2, 2007, Saratov.
Inflatable pool with dolphins burst during a performance in front of visitors. Gushing water carried and threw animals into hallways and foyers. Dolphins were dragged away behind the arena. Later dolphinarium staff announced that animals are alive.
Video footage with the accident (accident happened at 1:25): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hR2oc66UIw4 March 23, 2013, Vologda.
A strong gust of wind swept away the inflatable roof of the Moscow Traveling dolphinarium during the show. People were evacuated immediately. No one was hurt.
Night of August 12,2014, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
A huricane damaged the top of inflatable arena of the Moscow traveling dolphinarium. The wind swept away one of the walls. The whole rena lost electricity. The Marine Mammals were stressed yet the dolphinarium resumed the show on the same day, without waiting to repair the wall.
Source: http://www. sakhalinmedia.ru/news/island/12.08.2014/378263/uragan-pomyal-kupol-i-napugal-zhivotnih-moskovskogo-delfinariya-v-yuzhno-sahalinske.html August 13, 2014, Tula Oblast.
The water in the tank began to evoporate and deteriorate during the transportation of two beluga whales from Arkhangelsk to Novorossiysk. Firemen traveled to the scene and changed the water, but one of the beluga whales developed burns on its skin. The transportation was resumed after the water was changed.