On February 27 2018, British newspaper MailOnline reported the existence of a dolpinarium in an undergound pool in a hotel in Armenia. The animals, which were kept in deplorable conditions were used for "therapy sessions" for clients of the hotel. Charity Marine Connection came to the rescue of these poor mammals.
Source: North Downs Picture Agency
Held in captivity in the hotel basment next to Best Western Hotel Dilijian , not far from the armenian capital of Yerevan, the dolphins were used for thereapy sessions called Dolphin Assisted Therapy (DAT), for children with behavioural troubles.
Dolphins have healing virtues
According to the people in charge of the program, being with dolphins and swimming wtih them allows the children's mental and physical health to improve. Children with autism, hyperactivity and even cancer patients have been known to visit them. The brochure used to advertise this activity notes the following benefits:
During the sessions of the dolphin therapy the production of the endorphins is considerably increased. This, in itself helps to harmonize the nerve system as well as provide active and positive worldview.
And although these supposed benefits are supported by those responsible for the program, who claim that it relieves a number of pathologies, ranging from autism to cancer, experts agree that none of this has ever been proven.
A form of therapy challenged by experts
Experts call the benefits of this activity "doubtful", stating that playing with a puppy would have the exact same effects. This is affirmed by Lori Marino, a neuroscientist at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, who has studied dolphin and whales for 25 years:
Dolphins are not healers but smart sociable predators and they shouldn't be used to 'cure' the ill. Thousands of families visit DAT facilities and end up gaining nothing that they could not have gained from interacting with a puppy.
In the best of cases, interaction with dolphins could be beneficial in the short term, being in a novel environment and the placebo boost having positive expectations.
Source: Roger Allen
Beyond this, it is the dolphins' health that is largely questioned by animal advocates.
Alarming living conditions with serious consequences
Forbidden in the United Kingdom 20 years ago, dolphinariums are largely contested by animal rights advocates due to the quality of life offered to the marine mammals. British charity Marine Connection, who fight for the protection of dolphins and whales around the world, played a key part in closing down these establishments, and have now done the same in Armenia.
Source : Facebook/Liana Davoyan
Dolphins who live in captivity suffer a considerable amoiunt of stress throughout their life and this is due to their environment which is physically, socially and psychologically inedequate. A pool built for humans where they are then forced to interact with humans are just some of the factors that contribute to their stress when they truly belong in nature.
Situated underground, the pool rarely sees the light of day. The living conditions are alarming and have serious consequences. Lori Marino said:
The results are devastating. Stress leads to immune system dysfunction. Often they die from gastric ulcers, infections and other stress and immune-related diseases, not helped by their sometimes being given laxatives and antidepressants that are delivered in their food.
Director Margaux Dodds, who led the campaign to shut down the UK sites, was appalled when she saw the photos and videos of the dolphins – creatures that came from Russia under dubious circumstances.
These are wild sea mammals, not pets. There is no benefit to children or others derived from swimming with them. Captive dolphins live shorter lives and sadder lives.
The rescued dolphins will be rehomed in a Russian aquarium after the pool closes.
Source: North Downs Picture Agency
Last month, Japanese marine park, Inbubasaka closed its doors due to a sharp decrease in the number of visitors.