Cetacean (whale and dolphin) keeping in the UK actually goes back considerably
further than one might imagine with historical references to porpoises
being held at The Brighton Aquarium and beluga whale being display at
In contemporary times the first two purpose built aquaria for cetaceans
where built in 1963 at Flamingo Park Zoo in Yorkshire and at Marineland
built in the northern sea-side resort of Morecambe.
Dolphin keeping ceased in the UK in 1993 with the last three female
dolphins at Flamingoland being relocated to European facilities.
It is popularly promoted by animal-rights groups and indeed the
Brighton Sealife Centre that cetacean keeping has be banned and
is illegal in the UK. This is not correct.
1985 after concerns raised about the care of cetaceans in the UK by
various animal and environmental groups the then Department of the Environment,
now part of DEFRA, commissioned biologists Dr Margaret Klinowska and
Dr Susan Brown to research and review the keeping of these animals in
UK zoos and aquaria (see below note).
and Brown's report 'A Review Of Dolphinaria'
was published in 1986 with various recommendations to be implemented
by those holding captive cetaceans by no later than 1993. The authors
did have the authority to recommend that cetaceans should not be held
in captive care if their research supported such a position. However
it did not and they maintained that these animals could be successfully
kept in animal collections provided they were given the right conditions.
of these conditions was related to pool dimensions. Whilst some facilities
complied with pool size and area none reached or exceeded the suggested
minimum depth standards for the species held; for bottle-nose dolphins
this depth of at least a third of the pools size should be 7 metres
(23 feet). Ironically Marineland Morecambe one of the first facilities
to display these animals had a main pool which was 5.53 metres (18 feet)
deep with Flamingoland's main pool having a depth of 4.6 metres (15
However by this time only three dolphinaria remained and all would have
to rebuild and/or extend their existing facilities to be able to publicly
display animals after 1993.
Windsor's holding company had financial problems and went into receivership
in 1992. The site was acquired by Legoland Theme Parks and the animals
in the park where rehoused; the dolphins going to Harderwijk
Marine Mammal Park.
Brighton Aquarium's lease was sold to the Sealife Centres group in 1990
and the two dolphins and the dolphin 'Rocky' from Morecambe's Marineland
became part of a dolphin release project called 'Into
Flamingoland was the last facility to house dolphins and did plan to
build an extension to the existing dolphinarium to comply with the new
keeping regulations but this did not come to fruition and the dolphins
were moved to aquaria in Europe.
should be noted that until the UK's Zoo
Licensing Act which came into force in 1984 there was no legally
enforceable standards of husbandry for any captive wild animals
let alone cetaceans. It should be also noted that of the many dolphinaria
linked on the site were not extensive, purposes built facilities
with some being very temporary in nature and existed for just few
summer seasons and would not be consider appropriate or legal by
animal keeping standards. Further iinformation on the contempoary
care of whale and dolphins in captive care can be found HERE.
excerpt from the 1991 BBC Nature series Must The Show Go On which
focused on dolphin keeping in zoos and aquaria.
Here Dr Margaret Klinowska comments on some of her findings. The
full report can be found here:
of the photographs and information on this site have been donated and
the web master wishes to thank the following people:
this end please note the photographs on this web site may not be used
with permission of the web master and remain copyright of the respective
If anyone has any photos and other information they would like placed
on the web site please contact me.