Maneka Gandhi, former Union Environment Minister, has slammed the proposed dolphin park of the Greater Cochin Development Authority’s as a “colossal waste of money” which will lead to killing of animals and end up in a “scam.”

The cost of the project is “prohibitive and uncalled for” and India does not have expertise in either catching or keeping dolphins. The catching of dolphins for the project will result in the death of hundreds of dolphins and those which survive will die in a few weeks in the tanks or during “training.”, Ms. Gandhi told The Hindu.

Ms. Gandhi has also written to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy against the park and the ocenarium project of the State government.

Hinting that she may take a legal recourse against the project, Ms. Gandhi said that India will have to obtain permission from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora as the capture of the marine mammal is regulated internationally. Endangered dolphin species are included in Appendix I of CITES and its trade is permitted only in exceptional circumstances, she said.

Dolphins have a lower survival rate in captivity and require foreign doctors and modern medical facility which would be very expensive. Fish fed to the dolphins should be decontaminated and brought afresh. Many dolphins die from eating contaminated fish, Ms. Gandhi said.

No wild dolphins have been allowed to be captured for dolphinariums in the U.S. since 1989. Breeding programmes have been set up to provide the dolphinariums with new animals as they die quickly. India does not have such a breeding programme and setting one up would cost at least Rs. 50 crore, she said.

Keeping dolphins in dolphinariums is animal abuse and researches show that dolphins do not have enough freedom of movement in pools, regardless of the pool size. Captivity severely compromises its quality of life. In the wild, they swim hundreds of miles every day. They have complex social lives which cannot be recreated in captivity. Dolphins are large, strong animals perfectly adapted to the conditions of the open ocean. If held in a confined space and subjected to forced interaction with humans, they would show aggressive behaviour, she said.

The proposed park will not serve any educational purpose. Marine parks significantly distort the public’s understanding of the marine environment. Educational messages take second place to the whale and dolphin performances, where the jumping and splashing of the animals are the main feature, Ms. Gandhi pointed out. in the death of hundreds of dolphins .”

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