The thrill of watching a trained dolphin perform in the city is just a step away. The ambitious project of the Greater Cochin Development Authority to have a Dolphin Park has been submitted to the State Government for approval.
The proposal for Rs. 23-crore-project, submitted by Initor Projects based in British Virgin Islands and United Arab Emirates that claims to have expertise in setting up dolphin parks, passed the first phase by getting the approval of the general council of GCDA. It was presented as one of the key projects at the budget presentation.
“Once the State Government approves it, we need to enter into an agreement with the company, which has promised to set up the park in 18 months,” said N. Venugopal, Chairman of GCDA. The fully air-conditioned 5,000 sq.m indoor park, which will have five trained dolphins, will come up at 1.30 acres owned by the Authority behind the Kerala High Court building complex.
“This project is ecologically safe and not harmful for the animals. The park will have professionally trained personnel handling the animals, which will be kept in atmosphere matching their natural habitat. The company will operate the park and will give us one-third of the revenue as fees,” said Mr. Venugopal.
However, the project did not find favour with the scientific community. “Dolphins are highly intelligent animals that are extremely sensitive to environmental stimuli. It is seen that these animals in wilderness are distressed even by sonar vibrations from ships. So it is not viable to maintain animals in a climate which is totally alien to their natural environment,” said Anoop Balan, a marine mammal expert.
As the GCDA has not revealed from where the animal is being sourced, the exact risk involved could not be gauged. It is pointed out that the animals will be provided all facilities equivalent to their natural habitat, including feed. “There are also issues like how the water is treated and disposed. As the animal is protected species [under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972], any harm to its life would make it an offence,” said Dr. Balan, pointing out that similar attempts made at metros like Chennai had to be wound up due to the inherent impracticalities.
The proposal is based on a revenue model dependant on the tourist movement to the State. The proposal cited Foreign Tourist Arrivals to the country as 5.78 million in 2010, 6.29 million in 2011 and 6.45 million in 2012, with the last year recording foreign exchange earning of Rs. 87,520 crore. But the same study also cites that Kerala is ranked in eighth position among Indian States and Union Territories with a percentage share of just 3.8 for foreign tourist visits in 2011.
As the GCDA has not revealed from where the animal is being sourced, the exact risk involved could not be gauged.