Jan 292016
 


Inside a travelling aquatic circus in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek, whoops and cheers go up as a dolphin leaps out of a pool and slam-dunks a ball through a basketball net.

Hundreds of people packed inside the Moscow Travelling Dolphinarium to watch dolphins and beluga whales perform acrobatic stunts, against a painted backdrop of blue skies and palm trees.

A blonde female announcer dressed as a sailor spurs on the animals like champion athletes.

“A real sportsman doesn’t give up so easily,” she booms as a beluga named Dandy leaps out of the water but fails to whack a ball hanging on a string with his tail.

But he does not fluff his second attempt.

A dolphin plays with hoops during a training session in the Dolphinarium on the main embankment of the Crimean city of Sevastopol, Ukraine Photo: EPA

“And he’s got it this time!” the presenter shouts as the crowd roars in approval over a soundtrack of blaring rock and Russian pop ballads.

While the New Year’s show wowed crowds in landlocked Kyrgyzstan, it also fuelled a long-running debate in former Soviet states about cruelty to animals.

Travelling dolphinariums are banned across much of the world but remain popular in the ex-Soviet bloc where forms of circus entertainment prohibited in the West, such as acts with wild animals like lions and bears, continue to thrive despite concerns about animal welfare.

Yet opposition to animal abuse has grown in recent times, with local activists using the Internet to gather data and mobilise opposition to practices they say involve animal cruelty or stress.

Before the Moscow dolphin circus rolled into town, 1,500 people signed an online petition imploring Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev to ban it.

On opening night, a group of protesters picketed the performance with posters featuring drawings of weeping dolphins, some of them by children.

“Why has this dolphin circus ended up in Kyrgyzstan? Because it has nowhere else to go and we are a poor country with lax legislation,” said Anna Kirilenko of BIOM, an environmentalist non-profit organisation based in Bishkek.

Authorities in Bishkek however defended the show.

“Dolphins love to be touched. Training and performances are a form of play for dolphins…they were born in captivity and thus would not survive in the wild,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

Video footage secretly recorded by citizen journalists showing a circus whale in the Russian city of Perm being kept in a small metal container for days on end has been used by activists to press their case.

Dolphins take part in a performance of the Russia-based Moscow Dolphinarium in Bishkek Photo: AFP or licensors

A representative of the Moscow Travelling Dolphinarium denied any connection between the circus and the whale in Perm, saying the company never toured in Russia outside the capital.

Animal abuse is a recurring theme in Kyrgyzstan – the second-poorest country to emerge from the breakup of the Soviet Union.

In 2011, authorities in Bishkek announced plans to shoot around 10,000 stray dogs, sparking an international outcry and a number of petitions demanding the creatures be spared.

The government defended the shootings, arguing that housing the dogs or organising a programme of mass sterilisation was too costly.

The stress and discomfort suffered by aquatic mammals in travelling circuses has attracted particular attention.

In 2010, a beluga whale called Dale died from heart problems in Kazakhstan while touring with a Russian circus.

Dale’s circus partner lost interest in performing tricks after his death and disappeared from the show shortly afterwards, Kazakh media reported.

“These travelling dolphin circuses are the worst of the worst in terms of cruelty,” said Richard O’Barry, founder of the US-based Dolphin Project that campaigns against dolphin captivity.

“They haul dolphins and whales around in a truck. They live in a coffin-sized box. Then they milk as much money out of them before they die from stress-related diseases.”

Mr O’Barry once trained dolphins for the US television show Flipper but turned his back on such displays after the dolphin that most often played the lead character died in what he believes was a suicide triggered by depression.

These days, he cautions against what he calls “the born in captivity argument” used by dolphin circus owners to justify their shows.

“Very little research has been done on this subject,” said Mr O’Barry. “Many of these dolphins probably were born in the wild.”

This article was first published by the Telegraph on 21 Jan 2016.


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Angie Kohwagner

erl

Eri Asai

If they want to keep on doing, just do it with humans. NO ANIMALS NEEDED. Ban animal circuses in world. Period

Jim Duke

Living a life in captivity is no life at all–wrong and you know it. Be ashamed,be very ashamed. View these beauties in the ocean where they belong–wild and free.

Lori Cecere

This should have ended a long long time ago. In so many ways, we are still living in the dark ages.

William Norwood

It`s a no brainer.

Susan Cowling

All animals including dolphins and whales shouldn't have to perform in circuses it's so wrong they should be free

Carol Hamilton

Animals especially dolphins and whales are intelligent, complex family animals who take care of each other and they should be in the ocean. No animal should be in a circus it is cruel and barbaric

Lola Palooza

How would those people feel if they were locked up in a cage for life ? Do they ever think about that ? I guess not, 'cause you don't do to other what you wouldn't like other to do to you ! THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR ANIMAL ABUSE !!!

Toni Lethbridge

How anyone can enjoy or promote the captivity of these wonderful creatures for their own amusement is beyond belief. We are supposed to be civilised and caring. I don't think so.

Jen Lord

When these beautiful wild animals (Elephants, Lions and Tigers etc.) are not being forced to perform they are held in tiny cages as they travel the world for the greedy Ringling Bros. circuses.This is the sad existence that is their lives.
Let's fight together to free them to a sanctuary to live out the rest of their life in peace!!!!!!

Ute Christner

Freiheit für diese wundervollen Tiere. Das Becken ist viel zu klein und eng…

Christine Warman

No animals or marine life should be used for people to make money out of,these people do not care less for them as long as they do as they are told,if not beat them up,starve them,and neglect then leave then to die.

Marijke Philips

STOP THE CIRCUSES WITH ANIMALS !!!!! STOP STOP STOP ….

Maughan Harvey Gene

Of course it should be stopped. It should never have started, it's abuse…

Tara Wikramanayake

All wild creatures should be left in their natural habitat and not be used to entertain human beings.

Alice Adendorff

Of course BAN ANIMAL CIRCUSES. How much more cruelty does the human race need? Insanity! Animals must do tricks to entertain the evolved human. Wake up! Until every cage is empty and every chain broken. Free the animals.

Bianca Zen

Si.

Leigh Lofgren

I thought by now we would have stopped all this and hate seeing them in such confined areas and trained to perform – they need to be in their own world. Can you imagine putting people in confined spaces for life and having them perform on command – then you would see it stopped.

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

Circus berserkus
the circus is in town, what do you see?
as i look out at you, and you look in at me
do you see me as a large, roaring captive toy,
or do you look into my eyes, just know pain, no joy.
do you giggle and point as you mill around my cage,
in my terror annoint as i seethe in rage.
do you not understand that my roar is a shout:
open up the cage door and let me out
KLK

Michele Jankelow

Truly how anyone can cheer and enjoy such abject sadness and desperation is beyond belief. Surely ignorance on such cruelty should be acknowledged and worldwide people must be informed. Education is clearly an ongoing process that takes decades to correct. Tragic for the animals and mammals involved who find themselves in this most tragic, cruel and lonely of situations!

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