Cetacean (whale and dolphin) keeping in the UK actually goes back considerably further than one might imagine with historical references to porpoises being held at The Brighton Aquarium and beluga whale being display at the Westminster Aquarium.
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.
In 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).
Klinowska 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.
One 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 feet).
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 The Blue'.
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.
It 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 modern day animal keeping standards. Further iinformation on the contempoary care of whale and dolphins in captive care can be found HERE.
BATTERSEA PARK DOLPHINARIUM
BLAIR DRUMMOND SAFARI PARK
BREAN DOWN DOLPHINARIUM
BRIGHTON AQUARIUM & DOLPHINARIUM
CLACTON PIER DOLPHINARIUM
CLEETHORPES ZOO & MARINELAND
COVENTRY ZOO DOLPHINARIUM
FLAMINGO PARK ZOO - FLAMINGOLAND
GWRYCH CASTLE DOLPHINARIUM
KNOWSLEY SAFARI PARK DOLPHINARIUM
MARGATE DOLPHINARIUM & SATELLITES
MARINELAND - MORECAMBE
OCEAN PARK - SEABURN - SUNDERLAND
ROYALTY THEATRE DOLPHINS
SANDOWN DOLPHINARIUM - ISLE OF WIGHT
SCARBOROUGH MARINELAND & ZOO
SOUTHEND ON SEA DOLPHINARIUM
SOUTHSEA DOLPHINARIUM - PORTSMOUTH
ANIMAL TRAINING SCHOOL AND DOLPHINARIUM - SOUTH ELMSALL
WEST MIDLANDS SAFARI PARK DOLPHINARIUM
WINDSOR SAFARI PARK DOLPHINARIUM
WOBURN SAFARI PARK DOLPHINARIUM
An 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:
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