Activists call on government to withdraw Mediterraneo's zoo licence

Three dolphins died within the span of a month at the Mediterraneo water park in 2021

Animal Liberation Malta accused Mediterraneo of covering up the dolphin deaths
Animal Liberation Malta accused Mediterraneo of covering up the dolphin deaths

Animal Liberation Malta have asked the government to withdraw the zoo licence for the Mediterraneo water park, following the death of three dolphins at their facility.

In a letter to Alicia Bugeja Said, parliamentary secretary for animal welfare, the activists accused Mediterraneo Marine Park of covering up the death of three dolphins in the span of a month. The deaths occurred between August and September 2021.

They said they hope that the investigation being conducted by Commissioner for Animal Welfare, Alison Bezzina, into the case, could shed light on how the Veterinary Regulations Directorate carried out the investigation into the case.

The VRD confirmed with MaltaToday that “anatomic lesions compatible with lead poisoning” were identified as the cause of death during the necropsies of the dolphins. They also said that a veterinarian from Mediteranneo immediately contacted the Official Veterinarian, as soon as the first death occurred, and that an official declaration in writing was submitted within days.

ALM said that although Malta has long banned animal circuses, Mediterraneo was still given a licence to operate as a zoo.

“When one looks at the whole operation of Mediterraneo Park, including the fact animals that are subjected to training specifically for exhibition at paid public performances, it is abundantly clear in our opinion that this should fall under the category of a circus,” ALM wrote.

Chapter 439 of the Animal Welfare Act defines a “circus” as a “place where animals are introduced for the purpose of performance, manoeuvres and shows or otherwise and shall include any place where animals used in such circuses are kept or trained”.

The activists said they believe the zoo licence for the water park was issued “irregularly” by the Animal Rights ministry. They said they hope that the delays in the zoos regulations amendments, were not an excuse to allow animal circuses to perform locally.

In 2020, the government proposed the prohibition of big-cat cub petting at zoos in a White Paper, but relinquished it just 24 hours later, following outrage by zookeeper and known Labour adherent Anton Cutajar. Zoo regulations have so far remained the same despite the White Paper proposals.

“In light of this, Animal Liberation Malta is therefore asking you to immediately intervene and see that the Animal Welfare Act is enforced and adhered to and we are asking you to take the necessary action for the immediate withdrawal of the operating license as a zoo,” ALM said.
ALM said that such an action would be in line with what Greek authorities did when revoking the operating licence of the marine mammal facility for dolphins at Attica Zoological Park.

In Greece, just as in Malta the law prohibits all kinds of animal performances for all animals, including shows in zoological parks.

“Animal Liberation Malta believes that the Maltese government should be at the forefront for the safeguard of cetacean welfare and marine life and that their protection should be given priority, especially by your secretariat which is also responsible for Animal Welfare and not only fisheries,” ALM told Bugeja Said.

They said they believe the water park should change into a rehab centre for aquatic species where true conservation could take place, putting Malta as the unique leading Mediterranean rehabilitation centre.