After years living in captivity, Nando, Rocco, and Palawas deserve better than another stint in a suffocating aquarium tank.
Three bottlenose dolphins living in an undersized and outdated German tank are in need of some new digs.
The dolphins—Nando, Rocco, Palawas—will continue to live in their current home, an enclosure at a zoo in Munster, until the fall, when the tank will be closed, reports The Local.
While unable to confirm which zoo or dolphinarium would take the trio, zoo officials did say the new facility would be located somewhere in Europe.
Chief among the current tank's problems is an outdated chlorination system that had caused eye problems and eczema for the dolphins.
While celebrating the news, one dolphin activist bemoaned the idea that the dolphins would be re-housed in another tank and not rehabbed for release into the wild or, at the very least, sent to live in a sea pen.
“Its good to see these old-style aquariums with dolphins in captivity shutting down, but our preferred choice would be for the dolphins to be rehabilitated and released into the wild,” says Mark Palmer, in an exclusive interview with TakePart. He is the Associate Director of Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project.
Before a dolphin can be released into the open ocean, it must exhibit an ability to fish for itself, says Palmer. In captivity, dolphins are hand-fed by trainers.
“Sometimes, if they’ve been in captivity for too long, it just isn’t feasible to return a dolphin to the wild,” says Palmer. “If they haven’t built the muscles and reflexes for catching wild fish, they will not survive.”
While it is not known how long each of the dolphins has lived in captivity, be it at the German zoo or in another facility, a Munster zoo spokeswoman confirmed to The Local that Nando is 22, and Palawas and Rocco are eight and nine.
Palmer says that sea pens would be a cheaper, and prodigiously more humane, housing option than an aquarium tank.
“They should be taken off exhibit and allowed to live their lives out in a sea pen, in some semblance of wild existence,” says Palmer.
If the proper shore could be found—one with the right kind of current and with enough food—Palmer says that a low-budget sea pen could be built for a few thousand dollars.
A lack of funds and public pressure played a role in moving the dolphins, reports The Local.
The dolphins have long been popular with visitors to the zoo, a survey showed that most of them would prefer to see no dolphins at all as opposed to those kept in sub-standard conditions.
Once the Germany enclosure shuts down, there will only be two places in the country that keep dolphins in captivity.