Mediterraneo water park accused of keeping death of three dolphins under wraps

Captive-born Melita, mother Mar and other dolphin caught from the wild, die between August and September 2021 – activists question whether autopsies have been carried out

Animal Liberation Malta has accused the Mediterraneo water park at Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq of having kept secret the death of three dolphins in the span of one month.

The deaths occurred between August and September 2021. The Maltese Veterinary Department was aware of the deaths.

Animal Liberation Malta said they were advised about the death of the dolphins by Margaux Dodds, director of the UK-based NGO Marine Connection.

Dodds said that a member of the public had been told by the park that the missing dolphins had been moved to a Spanish facility, but when investigated by Marine Connection, resulted it was not true. “We were advised that the dolphins had not gone to another park but had, in fact, died at Mediterraneo. We continue to work alongside Maltese authorities to discover why the park were not been forthcoming with this information and an investigation is now vital to learn how these animals died, and the true situation at the facility.”

The three dolphins that died were all females, one being just seven years old according to the Cetabase registry, whilst the other two females we believe were between 20 and 25.

The latter two, Onda and Mar, were caught from the wild in Cuba and had been caged till their death in Malta since 2000. The young dolphin, Melita, was born at Mediterraneo in October 2014, daughter of Mar. Melita has never swam in open sea.

“Normally international parks not only announce the deaths of their dolphins but also publish the results of the necropsy reports, however this has not been the case in Malta. The park has failed to make any announcements on its social media or on the official database of captive dolphins, Cetabase. ALM questions what is the reason behind this secrecy and why the regulating authority (veterinary department) did not flag anything about this nearly a year since their untimely deaths?” ALM said in a press conference outside the park, where plastic dolphin floats were displayed.

“We do not know whether or not a necropsy was done and if it was conducted by an independent vet, and if the competent authorities did their own investigations considering this is a serious case: not one, but three dolphins died within a span of a month. Thus we do not know the cause of death of these three dolphins in a matter of three weeks. Had the veterinary department taken timely action, would the lives of two dolphins have been spared?”

ALM said Commissioner of Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina has opened an inquiry to understand how the investigation was conducted by the government veterinary department. “We hope that this will be made public and all documents and correspondence from the veterinary department on this case are made public,” ALM said.

ALM also said that at law, Mediterraneo should be considered as a circus and therefore banned from producing animal performances. “We ask the Commissioner of Animal Welfare to investigate under what pretext Mediterraneo was given a zoo licence.”

ALM said Mediterraneo should be turned into a rehabilitation centre for aquatic creatures thanks to its coastal location.

“The remaining dolphins should have the opportunity to be rehoused in a sea pen to live a more natural life and end performing and display to the public. This option should be considered by the park and discussed further with Maltese authorities and other cetacean experts, to bring an end to the shows. This would put Malta in the forefront of being considerate of cetacean welfare, setting an example for other countries to follow,” ALM said.