Walruses, dolphins and porpoises

Walruses, Harderwijk, 12 October 2013

These walruses were photographed with a mobile phone, like the other photos of this blog post. They were at the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk in the Netherlands, on 12 October 2013.

I was there at the special request of a special very young person. The Dolfinarium is closely entwined with SOS Dolfijn, the organisation in the Netherlands endeavouring to save beached dolphins, porpoises, whales and seals; and to, after convalescence, return them to the sea.

This video is about a sick harbour porpoise being cared for at the Dolfinarium.

However, the Dolfinarium also has a, controversial, commercial side. Bottlenose dolphins perform there for audiences of thousands of people. There are good arguments against captivity of animals. Against captivity as pets of private persons. Against captivity in zoos; especially if quite some, too many, zoos have bad conditions for their animals.

For marine mammals, needing more space than many other species, the arguments against captivity are even more valid. It is a good thing that Antwerp zoo in Belgium, which used to have dolphins confined in a small space, stopped that in 1999.

Zoos, at least some zoos, have other sides as well. In the USA, and elsewhere, there are zoos, which, by captive breeding, fight against extinction of rare species. “The Oregon Zoo is known mostly for the elephants and other animals it keeps in captivity. But it also releases many critters into the wild as part of its commitment to conservation and preserving endangered species”: here.

In Britain, Chester Zoo very recently had a success in prevention of extinction of rare Brazilian parakeets.

One might imagine this dialogue between a “hardline animal rights activist” (HARA) and a “zoo manager” (ZM).

HARA: “OK, you have explained to me about your captive breeding programs. I agree now that my original demand that your zoo should be closed down entirely was too sweeping. However, I still think that everything else, apart from the captive breeding, should be closed down. So, no more people paying entrance fees to see the animals”.

ZM: “Where should be the money for the captive breeding come from then?”

HARA: “From private charity”.

ZM: “That would hardly be a solution. Most kind-hearted millionaires have already spent all their charity money on hospitals, schools, and other stuff. And less kind-hearted millionaires would rather spend their money on getting still richer; on warship-like private yachts; on buying lions and rhinos as pets for their own private zoos, inaccessible to the public; etc.”

HARA: “Then, the government should pay.”

ZM: “In the present social, economic and political climate, they are not likely to do so. Quite some governments rather spend money on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, etc; or on spying on their own citizens, than on publicly accessible facilities like museums, schools, libraries, or zoos”.

We will leave these two people at their dialogue. Now, something about when I was very small. My grandparents then took me to a zoo. For the first time ever, I saw the beauty and diversity of animals. Diversity all over the world; not just the relatively few animals of the urban environment where I was born.

Suppose my grandparents, and later my parents, would never have taken me to zoos? Would I blog today then about animals? About saving species from extinction? Against eating dolphin and whale meat? Maybe then I would not blog at all now. Or blog only about human issues.

Like with me, this might be the case with many other people.

Now, back to Harderwijk. We were there on a Saturday; a busy day with many human visitors. Also flying visitors. House sparrows. One of many jackdaws sits down on the top of a parasol. Black-headed gulls close to where marine mammals, or humans, eat. Starlings. A collared dove. Two mallards flying overhead.

2200 people fit on the bleachers of the big auditorium for the Acqua Bella bottlenose dolphin show. It begins with two dolphins jumping synchronically over a water jet, to big applause.

Then, the story of the show. A stupid man throws a can into the water. Each time he does that, the dolphins throw it back at him. Why? the stupid man asks himself. Then, a woman arrives. She says that he should not pollute the dolphins’ sea. “I will take you on a journey around the world. Then, you will see for yourself how beautiful planet Earth and the wildlife on it are. And that you should not pollute.”

The show continues. While the dolphins (six at the end of the show) keep amazing the audience, there are images on a big screen of elephants in Africa, and of colourful coral reef fish. And of polar bears and other Arctic animals. Then a woman, a bit like ancient Greek earth goddess Gaia, comes on-screen; warning against global warming dangers to the North Pole environment.

This video is about the Acqua Bella show.

After the dolphins, the harbour porpoises. As a rule, beached porpoises, brought to the Dolfinarium, are released back into the North Sea after convalescence. The porpoise trainer said that some (partially) convalesced porpoises cannot be returned, as they would be unable to survive in the wild.

Like Amber, one of two porpoises in the show. Her teeth are very worn. She would be unable to catch any North Sea fish, and would starve. Now, she is in the show with her daughter Joelle, swimming with balls; jumping out of the water. Joelle was born here last year. It is unique that captive harbour porpoises reproduce.

The bottlenose dolphins here have babies as well. People can watch them swimming in a big lake, through underwater windows.

Harderwijk dolphin’s 52th birthday: here.

This video is about rays and other fish in Harderwijk.

There are fish at the Dolfinarium too: rays and sharks. Also cod and flatfish.

This video is about the pirates and sea lions show in Harderwijk.

Californian sea lions perform at another show. The theme of that show is pirates trying to rob a bank in a harbour town; which they have discovered on a treasure map. A pirates affixes explosives to the bank’s door; but, just in time, a sea lion grabs the explosives and throws them in the water.

There is also sabre fencing on board of the pirate ship, like in Treasure Island or in Peter Pan. The pirate ship has a crows’ nest. Half way the show, a jackdaw, Europe’s smallest crow species, sits down in it (spontaneously; unintended by the show’s script writers).

In the end, the pirates lose, as their ship explodes.

Walrus, Harderwijk, 12 October 2013

Just before we left Harderwijk, the walruses got their fish meal.

Walrus, Harderwijk, 12 October 2013

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