Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Nature studies: Stay away from the dolphins kept in tanks. The only ones to see live wild

Sometimes features of our lives with which everyone is familiar can disappear so completely that the next generation has no idea they ever existed. So it is, thankfully, with the dolphinarium.

You need to be fifty or over to remember the time when every other British theme park or seaside resort seemed to have an aquarium that housed performing dolphins, with the peak year being 1972, when – believe it or not – there were no fewer than 36 of them operating in this country, from Brighton to Battersea Park in London, and from Knowsley Safari Park near Liverpool to Windsor Safari Park. Now they’ve all long since gone, every one of them; the last closed its doors in 1993.

It was all part of a zoological craze which swept the world at the end of the 1960s, following the international success of the US TV series Flipper, the story of a fictional bottlenose dolphin which was the wild pet of a marine park ranger in Florida. In a few short years, dolphinaria appeared in every major country, with wild dolphins and later orcas, or killer whales, being captured by the hundred so they could perform tricks for tourists in their concrete tanks.

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