Published: Monday 30 November 1998

Playing with dolphins

A dolphinarium opened recently at Mahabalipuram near Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Its construction cost was Rs 20 crore, of which Rs 10 crore came from the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC). It houses three dolphins and four sea lions.

According to The Hindu, (July 13, 1998), these dolphins have come from Bulgaria. But we do not know whether these dolphins were on transit or really came from Bulgaria.

It is surprising that while all over the world dolphinariums are facing closure due to public pressure and financial constraints, a poor country like India has opened one in the name of amusement. There are proposals to open such "amusement centres" at Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Bangalore too.

Maintaining a dolphinarium is an expensive exercise. Each dolphin consumes around five to 10 kg of fish per day. A kg of fish costs about Rs 80 to Rs 100. Then the trainers also have to be paid and a high quality of water should be maintained by pumping sea water and purifying it.

The Mahabalipuram dolphinarium charges Rs 135 to 185 per show. After initial enthusiasm, people may lose interest in such "amusement".

Environmentalists all over the world have been campaigning against the exploitation of dolphins. They are freedom-loving migratory animals who should not be kept in captivity, they say. Also, many dolphins die in the process of capture, transport and training. Others die of starvation as they refuse to eat while in captivity. In the United States, the "Freedom for Dolphin Groups" has been successful in freeing many dolphins.

According to the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, dolphins and whales, are protected animals. Anyone found killing or harming them can be fined up to Rs 5,000 or could face imprisonment of up to five years. A special permit must be obtained to keep these animals.

The assistant director (wildlife protection) of the department of environment and forests at Chennai has to issue this permit. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), of which India is a signatory, also states that a permit must be obtained from the exporting country before dolphins are exported.

Recently, one company in India imported two sea lions for captive-breeding from Cuba. One of the sea lions, a male, died. When the postmortem was carried out, it was found to have been neutered.

It is advisable to stop such ventures in India before more dolphins are imported only to be exploited. It is sad that public money is wasted for such costly "entertainment"....

Saving species

The article on the extinction of orangutans in Indonesia (Down To Earth, Vol 7, No 6; August 15) made interesting reading. In a world rapidly becoming industrialised, life has become hard not only for orangutans, but for many other species. Thanks to deforestation, forest cover is reducing at an alarming rate.

According to official statistics, India's total forest cover has gone down to 22 per cent from 33 per cent, owing to corrupt officials and apathetic governments. We do not have any right to take away an animal's right to life. The government should be pressurised to save these animals from extinction. Conservation of animals species should be our utmost priority before we low our species forever....

Unmasking an error

There was an error in the special report 'Unmasking the heat'(Down To Earth, Vol 7, No 4; July 15). Akhilesh Gupta is a principal scientific officer in the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting which is under the department of science and technology. The centre is located on the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) campus. He is not working in the satellite meteoroloff division of the IMD, as mentioned in the article. ...

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