A dolphinarium in southwestern Turkey that attracted controversy due to concerns about the living conditions of the venue’s dolphins has been closed and the park’s mammals freed following efforts from civil society organizations.
“This has been an intense but effective campaign but we will only feel truly happy when the [dolphins] are finally back in the wild. This shows how much can be achieved by a collaborative effort and people working together across the world with one collective aim: a real testament to the power of the people. With modern communications and clear aims, we have shown what can be achieved,” Nichola Chapman of Dolphin Angels, one of the nongovernmental organizations that fought to secure the release of the park’s two dolphins, said over the weekend.
Dolphin Angels, along with NGOs Born Free and SAD/DEMAG, fought for many months to close the dolphinarium and free its dolphins.
Businessman Alexandr Kuznetzov and a group of investors rented land in the resort of Hisarönü from Ölüdeniz Municipality in the southwestern province of Mu�la earlier in 2010. They brought two dolphins, Tom and Misha, from the nearby district of Ka� in May and were reportedly charging tourists 50 pounds for the opportunity to swim with the mammals at the dolphinarium.
The campaign to save the animals was started by a group of British expats and Turks who organized protest marches and lobbied the Turkish government. Calling themselves the Dolphin Angels, they marched against the Dolphin Park and persuaded many travel companies to boycott the dolphinarium.
“Captivity is unacceptable for dolphins. We simply cannot stand by and allow this kind of exploitation to happen,” lawyer �ule Beder said in the wake of the announcement to close the dolphinarium. “For months we have been determined to send them back to the wild where they belong. The shabby pool is no place for these wonderful creatures.”
Negotiations with the facility’s owners and the local authority finally secured a license for NGOs to care for the dolphins.
Dolphins to be moved to Mediterranean
Together with marine experts John Knight and Doug Cartlidge and a team from British Divers Marine Life Rescue, plans have been made to move the dolphins to a special sea reserve where they will be rehabilitated and eventually released into the wild.
On Saturday, Born Free was waiting for the final paperwork to secure the dolphins’ permanent release. The move to a location off the south coast of Turkey will take five hours, a journey that may further damage the mammals’ health.
Knight, however, believes the move is a risk worth taking. “Despite the conditions, it is testimony to their natural strength they have survived so far. I am reasonably confident we can pull it off but a move from a place like this will always carry risks,” he said.
Lesley Robinson, Cath �nanur, Can �nanur, Dawne Büyük, Meral Büyük, Do�an Eraslan and many others worked tirelessly to rescue the dolphins and were supported by more than 21,000 members of the ‘Free the Ölüdeniz Dolphins’ Facebook group, created by Joanne Davies and the Cal�� Beach Forum.
“This has been an amazing journey for us all, with so many ups and downs, like a roller coaster,” Robinson said. “Now the dolphins’ own journey back to freedom has begun. There will be many more months of hard work but the experts are now there to help Tom and Misha recover their strength.”
Erdem Danyer and his assistant, I��l Aytemiz, two veterinarians who have been working together with the British team of experts, will help with the dolphins’ care and rehabilitation.
NGOs plead for continued donations
Tom and Misha’s mood seemed to improve Saturday as rescuers prepared their equipment in Fethiye. Moreover, in what must only be considered a lucky omen, a pod of wild dolphins swam over to greet the pair.
Although the dolphinarium has now been closed and arrangements made to transport the dolphins elsewhere, Born Free and Dolphin Angels are appealing for donations to help fund the rescue, which will cost the charities 150,000 pounds.
On Friday Sept. 10, there will be a jazz fundraising evening at Aksazlar Beach Club in Fethiye to help with the rehabilitation and education programs. Organizers are hoping the event, one of the first of its kind ever staged in Fethiye, will provide an opportunity to celebrate the dolphins’ release while also covering the cost of their rescue.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 3 at The Winehouse, in Üzümlü, Fethiye, there will be an auction of a specially commissioned oil painting by the well-known and highly respected British artist, Ben Maile.
To contribute to Tom and Misha’s rescue fund, visit www.bornfree.org.uk
For more information on Jazz at Aksaz call �emsi Toprak at + 90 532 475 24 63
For further information about the Maile painting auction, call The Winehouse in Üzümlü at +90 252 662 20 25.
This is great news!
Several years ago I left the corporate world and moved to the San Juan Islands off Washington State to co-found a non-profit for dolphins and whales. Our organization, along with many others, were working to get Lolita released. Lolita is an orca who was captured from Puget Sound and has been held captive and performing for the past 40 years. Efforts to have her released have been unsuccessful.
I find it interesting that I am about to board a plane and fly to Fiji to spend a month on board a boat whose captain I met while living in the San Juans and working on this project.
I pray that one day soon they will all swim free.
Debbie Takara Shelor