No dolphinarium, including the one in Bruges, can comply

No dolphinarium, including the one in Bruges, can comply
07/03/2024 Lana Bauwens

World-renowned scientist and living legend Dr Jane Goodall and GAIA plead in Flemish Parliament for phasing out captive dolphins in Bruges.

Brussels, Wednesday 6 March 2024 – This morning, the Animal Welfare Committee of the Flemish Parliament heard experts on the proposal for a decree “on the welfare of dolphins” submitted by Els Ampe (Voor U). Also on hand: none other than Dr Jane Goodall, the legendary UN peace ambassador and world-renowned authority anthropologist/biologist, whose research on chimpanzees in their own biotope provided groundbreaking scientific knowledge and revolutionised primatology. In a video message, Jane Goodall explained why she is fighting against keeping cetaceans in captivity and pleading for the phasing out of the keeping of dolphins at the Bruges’ Boudewijn Seapark dolphinarium: “No dolphinarium, including the one in Bruge, can meet the needs of these magnificent marine mammals!”

Jane Goodall has been committed to animal rights and nature conservation for decades. In 2023, she addressed the Flemish Minister of Animal Welfare Ben Weyts (N-VA) in a video message expressing her concern for the dolphins at the Boudewijn Seapark. This time, the living legend is addressing the members of the Flemish Parliament’s Animal Welfare Committee. In a video message, Jane Goodall informed the committee members that she had brought together a research committee of dolphin experts under the chairmanship of Flemish ethicist Dr Koen Margodt, who was personally present at the session. He too made clear why Jane Goodall and himself support Els Ampe’s proposed decree and want the Bruges dolphins out of the dolphinarium. GAIA president Michel Vandenbosch also expressed his support for Els Ampe’s proposed decree during the hearing. He argued unequivocally for, among other things:

– The gradual (natural) phasing out of the six dolphins kept in captivity at the Bruges’ dolphinarium of Baudouin Seapark.

– A breeding and import ban and no replacement of deceased dolphins.

– A better destination for the dolphins at Baudouin Seapark, offering guarantees of a semi-free life in a suitable bay or lagoon, where the dolphins would have a swimming area of some 20,000 square metres.

Delegates from the Bruges dolphinarium and other advocates of dolphinariums and keeping of dolphins in captivity were also heard. 

Jane Goodall’s message: make the right choice for Bruges dolphins 

In her message to the Flemish Parliament’s Animal Welfare Committee, Jane Goodall emphasised the remarkable intelligence and rich emotional life of dolphins and why captivity is inappropriate and manifestly inadequate for these marine mammals with such special personalities. Early death, depression and aggressive behaviour are all too common in these animals.

No dolphinarium, including the one in Bruges, can meet the needs of these magnificent marine mammals. Their habitat there is far too limited, far too small and too monotonous. A lot of research has made it clear that keeping dolphins captive in tanks (basins) must end. In a kind of semi-captivity, these magnificent marine mammals can live a more natural and varied life in a more spacious environment. The Jane Goodall Institute runs several sanctuaries for chimpanzees rescued from the entertainment industry and other captive situations (…) It’s great to see how they, step by step, gain confidence, form friendships and enjoy their newfound freedom. Dolphins should be given the same opportunities. Efforts are currently being made in many countries to build marine reserves. I beg you to do the necessary and make the ethical choice that can ensure a truly better future for them.”

Concerned dolphin behaviour was indeed observed in Bruges.

The session in the Flemish Parlement ended before members of parlement could ask questions. A next session will be held.