A Brit discovers captive dolphins in foul conditions in Egypt.
On the Red Sea, Hurghada is a popular Egyptian tourist destination. It is here that Chilean businessmen Fernando Fischmann intends to build an artificial lagoon, and also where an oil spill earlier this year sent people with a vested interest in attracting tourists scrambling to clean up the beaches.
Although the beaches were cleaned, the Hurghada Enviornmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) raised concerns that elsewhere, out of sight, remnants of the spill were left unattended. That same organization has now released reports that four Japanese dolphins are being held in a tiny swimming pool, until a new dolphinarium is built in Hurghada.
After receiving a tip from members of the public, the organization visited a villa where the common bottlenose dolphins were observed in a pool 1/10 the size that is considered acceptable.
The two males and two females are roughly three to four meters long and were brought to Egypt from Japan. However, Egyptian law mandates at least 105 days in quarantine to ensure that the animals are free of disease.
The pool, according to Wildlife Extra (a now defunct site), was filthy, most likely because it does not have an adequate filtration system to cope with the waste produced by the four dolphins. Visibility was apparently no more than 20 cm.
Wildlife Extra reported:
According to the Brazilian Institute for the Environmental and Natural Renewable Resources a minimum of 14 metres horizontal distance, a minimum depth of six metres and a minimum volume of 1600 m³ is specifies for two animals. The volume for four animals should be at least 2400m³. The HEPCA team found the four dolphins in a pool measuring nine metre by nine metre pool that was just four metres deep – a volume of just 324m³, only slightly above one tenth of the minimum required size.
It is unknown whether the dolphins were born in captivity or if they are wild. And releasing them into the Red Sea is out of the question since it is not their natural habitat. Not only would they put the local bottlenose dolphin population at risk of genetic and disease contamination, but if the dolphins are not wild their survival is far from guaranteed.
According to WE, the best that can be achieved is to improve the dolphins’ present conditions: provide more space and cleaner water. Either the pool will be extended or a new facility must be built for them.
“After the Red Sea Governorate learned about the four dolphins, they officially defined their position against holding dolphins in captivity within the borders of the Red Sea governorate. We hope that this will include the cancellation of the planned dolphinarium in Hurghada, before it opens its gates.” wrote WE.
Presently, however, Egypt has no laws governing dolphin capture.
A spokesman for HEPCA told HE: Egyptian waters offer incredible opportunities to see wild marine animals in their natural environment, including one of the most famous marine protected area in the region, the so-called Dolphin House, Samadai Reef. Egypt is actively working towards the conservation of its national environmental treasures; we don’t want the Egyptian Red Sea to send out a contradictory message allowing the captivity of intelligent, social marine mammals, such as dolphins. We will lobby vigorously, for the passing of new laws to make the Red Sea Governorate free from this heartbreaking, inhumane business.