Paradise lost, yet plausible – Jasmina Todorovic

Since I can remember, all of my encounters with dolphins were very powerful, yet more sad and painful experiences.

From the first time of seeing them as an attraction in a dolphin show in my home town of Belgrade, over finding a very young dead dolphin at one of the beaches of Monte Negro, killed by local fishermen for it was eating fish (!?), to finally discovering the never-ending story of dolphins trapped in Kaş, Turkey.

It doesn’t matter where on earth you are, many people are treating these beautiful beings in the same cruel way.

The first time I heard about Kaş’s dolphinarium was last year,  when I payed my first visit to this small city, in the summer of 2011.

Luckily, it was already closed due to the long struggle of many people who know the cruelty of the existence of such a facility. This “Torture Park” or “Dolphin Prison”, how I call them, was actually opened many years ago, and it’s first captives were one dolphin and, believe it or not, one whale! They were in this very small wire cage, situated in the sea, together at the same time, being able to see the freedom, yet not to touch it. Back then, this dolphinarium was open for visitors, so one could come and watch the “show”, or pay much more money to swim with the prisoners. I couldn’t find out what happened to the first dolphin and the whale, only that they were replaced with two new dolphins, named Tom and Misha. After the mentioned fight of many people, the dolphinarium was closed, and Tom and Misha were to be sent to a rehabilitation program before finally being released to their natural habitat. But what actually happened, surprised everyone. Their “owner” just moved them to Hisarönu, and put them in a swimming pool. Again, good people did all in they power, so after this additional stressful experience the dolphins were moved to a proper place for rehabilitation.

Finally, everybody was happy, hoping this will not happen again. At least not in Kaş. Even the mayor of Kaş gave his promisse.

At the beginning of June this year (2012), I found myself in Kaş again. The joy was erased immediately upon learning there are new dolphins at the same place that was meant to be closed forever. Supposedly, they were brought here from one of Bodrum’s similar places, inside of a small truck. Did the mayor of Kaş just broke his promise? I needed to go there and see for myself. One early morning, accompanied by my friend from this city, I swam from the near by beach to the notorious cage. We didn’t want to believe our eyes when we spotted not two, but four dolphins, in a cage that looked even smaller from this point. And, like the cage was not small enough already, but it was divided in two, keeping younger dolphins separated from older ones. All of them had scars and deep cuts on their snouts, probably made while desperately trying to escape trough a very rusty fence, covered with little sharp seashells. But, they also had something that looked like some kind of fungus infection.

It was obvious to us that these Afalina also known as Bottlenose dolphins were in a very poor mental and physical condition. After twenty minutes we spent next to them, one of the “owners” spotted us and requested we leave the site, adding we should come back when the dolphinarium is open, which, he said, will be soon, and that the dolphins might remember us. We were absolutely furious!

I even started sobbing, not being able to catch my breath. When we returned to the beach, a younger guy working at this terrible place waited for us, his dog next to him. He obviously wanted to scare us, but we were blinded with anger, so we asked him about the origin of those wounds on dolphins’ snouts. He just said he didn’t know, and simply disappeared back into the facility.
This led me to believe these guys do not provide any health care for the dolphins.

Later on, I learned the dolphins were brought here in November or December last year, and many people had no idea they were here at all, let alone there were four of them.
For many days after this first encounter, I was going back to the cage, in weird hours, so I had less chances of being spotted by people. I had a great desire to help these dolphins and make them forget where they are, even by simple singing. They liked my songs and my touches very much, so they always approved them with laughter or funny moves. I couldn’t stop admiring them.

Then, one day, while I was approaching the cage, something was not right.

It was too quiet inside the cage. When I got closer it was clear that there were only two dolphins inside. What happened to the other two? Were they sent to another exploitation park, or were they saved? According to some people, they were indeed sent for rehabilitation program, but in the process of moving them, people responsible for them managed to drop one of the dolphins to the ground. Again, they were transported inside of a small truck, and this incident must have happened while taking them in or out of it. I don’t know whether the dolphin who was dropped sustained greater physical injuries, but it must have been a very traumatic experience. After all that happened to all of the dolphins being captives here, I cannot be sure if these two were actually sent for rehabilitation or not.  It is quite possible they were just moved to yet another “Torture Park”.

Soon after two of the dolphins were moved, the men working at this dolphinarium put a thick green net over the cage’s fence, so one could not see trough. This was done to stop many people, including me, from coming close to the cage, but it made the conditions in which these dolphins live even worse.

Now, they cannot see anything that is above the surface of the water and away from the cage.These men should have used this net to put it above the cage, therefore provide some shade for these unfortunate beings which are spending the whole days exposed to harsh sun, not being able to go deep underwater for the cage is not in a deep place.

There is a belief that swimming with dolphins helps in dealing with many physical and mental problems in humans, but there is not one single proof that this indeed helps, rather than it brings joy. However, it is proven that happiness is strongly connected to our physical and mental health, but we should find other ways to bring happiness to our lives. Ways which don’t include destroying the lives of other living beings.

I wander, what will happen with the dolphins trapped here in Kaş?

Will other dolphins replace them?

Shall we allow this vicious circle?

The fact this place is not open for visitors will not change anything.

We should close this place down!

And not only this place, but all the other dolphinariums and zoos as well.

They should be forbidden by law!

I would like if all the people could imagine themselves trapped in small cages,  even for the rest of their lives. Would they be happy, or would they go mental?

Just because other species do not speak our language, doesn’t mean they are stupid and we have the right to make decisions in their name.

If you are a pet owner, what gives you the right to beat your animal so you can train it? What gives you the right to spay a cat or a dog so they can’t make babies?

Maybe these actions provide better life for you, but you only.

I want all of you sharing the same opinions to start acting now, or try even harder!

Big changes start from small changes of individuals who spread the word and later unite.

Being here in Kaş, my goal is to close this terrible dolphinarium for good.

I am asking all of you who can contribute in any way, to help me do so.

As a foreigner, who does not speak Turkish, and has little connections, it is hard for me to fully get involved, so it would be good if you could help me.

Let’s discuss on what we should do to close this place once for good, and let’s do it as soon as possible!

Please, email me to: [email protected]

Best regards,

Jasmina Todorović

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.  -Edmund Burke