“Help the prisoners at Dolphin Discovery Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands” is the heading of an online petition that is making some serious claims against the Prospect Reef’s ‘Swim.
With the Dolphin’ attraction.
The petition, is said to have been created by Dora Marchi of Italy who likens the management of the mammals at Dolphin Discovery to slavery. However, the accusations are being strongly denied by the BVI-based establishment.
The petition which is addressed to Minister of Education and Culture, Hon. Myron Walwyn, Deputy Premier, and Minister of Natural Resources and Labour, Dr. the Honourable Kedrick Pickering, His Excellency Governor, Boyd McCleary, and Deputy Governor, Mrs. V. Inez Archibald got its first signature on March 1. It appears that the aim is to reach 1000 signatures. As of March 5, when this article was written the petition had garnered 588 signatures.
In a very critical overview of the situation Marchi stated that there are welfare issues surrounding the dolphins at Prospect Reef, and listed the water quality as one such issue: “The dolphins are also being worn down by a slave like mentality of those in charge. The few dolphins who live there are expected to work the entire day, meeting with ten different groups of people each day. They are then obligated to perform multiple exercises for each person/group, from sun up to sunset. All the while, the young babies are not allowed contact with their mothers throughout the long, working days,” the petitioner claimed.
She announced that Venus, a 25 year old dolphin who was born in captivity, has never once known freedom nor the thrill of riding a wake, and that Venus is also forced to work exhausting ten hour days.
Marchi requested that the authorities, the petition is addressed to, intervene. She asked that the officials put a stop to Dolphin Discovery: “Please help sentient beings there by requesting that the facility end their Circus show; and turn instead to using this facility as a sanctuary for those dolphins who are in need of a safe place to recover from illness, injury or being orphaned. Tortola means “land of turtle doves” and turtle doves are supposed to stand for peace and lifelong love…Please help the sentient beings there,” she added.
Dolphin Discovery Responds
Meanwhile, the management of Dolphin Discovery have announced that the claims made by Marchi are riddled with untruths and misinformation. In an interview with The Island Sun newspaper, manager of Dolphin Discovery BVI/ Swim with the Dolphin, Carlos Guerrero disclosed that he has had the opportunity to read the claims made by the petitioner, and disagree with the maltreatment allegations.
“I had the opportunity to read this yesterday (Tuesday). I respect Mrs. Marchi`s point of view and believe we share concern for the health and wellbeing of the dolphins, though there is a lot of misinformation in the statement,” he said.
The manager stated that the business’ opening hours are 9 am to 4 pm and he stated that programs start at 10 am — with programs every hour on the hour; and the final program at 2 pm.
“As Mrs. Marchi mentioned, we do have different areas where we do our Swim and Encounter programs, and others where our beautiful dolphins are in other activities such as play time, training, medical evaluations and rest. Please keep in mind that there is nothing more important for us than the health of our marine mammals. This health includes their physical and mental health. As we are part of the largest dolphin family in the world, Dolphin Discovery, we have an incredible structure that includes trainers and a vet on-site and we are all involved. Our dolphins are our priority and we check their health on a daily basis,” he pointed out.
Mr. Guerrero further noted that his company is truly fortunate to have a very successful breeding program here in Tortola. This, he said, is confirmed by Mrs. Marchi statement which mentions that dolphins have been born under human care: “However I must say that the statement claiming we separate the calves from their mothers during programs is not correct. We do not do this, and quite the contrary, we love to share the experience of seeing the dolphin calves in the water,” he commented.
“The water quality is another point where Mrs. Marchi`s statement is not correct. Our full time veterinarian has a weekly routine where she takes water samples from different points within the habitat and is run through different water quality tests. Additionally, Conservation and Fisheries conducts water tests,” the manager added.
Link to the petition: