Mediterraneo: Dolphin deaths were not ‘pure accident’, animal welfare commissioner says

An investigation by the Office of the Commissioner for Animal Welfare found that the Veterinary Regulations Directorate should have responded with more scrutiny and attention to the death of three dolphins at the Mediterraneo Marine Park

A formal inquiry by the Office of the Commissioner for Animal Welfare (CAW) over the Veterinary Regulations Directorate’s (VRD) handling of three dolphins’ death determined that the case should have been handled with more scrutiny and attention.

The investigation concluded that VRD conducted “a cursory and fleeting investigation”, and did so only after being pushed by the animal welfare commissioner.

“CAW is of the opinion that the three dolphin deaths, Onda, Mar and Melita, merited far more scrutiny, attention, and certainly a more immediate response, by the VRD,” the inquiry report reads.

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

The animal rights group came out with the accusations in July, but the animal welfare commission had been alerted to the disappearance of the dolphins back in February.

After receiving note of this, the commissioner requested clarifications and information on the whereabouts of these dolphines from the VRD.

It was only after two months of “lethargic responses” from the VRD that the commissioner found out that the three dolphins had died back in August and September 2021 within the span of 20 days.

Eventually, the VRD had conducted its own investigation and concluded that the case as a pure accident, so no enforcement action had been taken by the directorate. 

The VRD had confirmed with MaltaToday that “anatomic lesions compatible with lead poisoning” were identified as the cause of death during the necropsies of the dolphins.

"Given that lead poisoning is not a naturally occurring disease, on the 9th July, 2022, CAW opened an official investigation as per CAP 439 Art 44(1f) to “investigate….the functions and workings of Veterinary Services.”

The commissioner pointed out that the Mediterraneo Marine Park did not cause voluntary harm to animals, and the case was not one of blatant neglect. However, the commissioner said that a degree of negligence was involved on more than one occasion.

“Therefore [the commissioner] disagrees with the VRD’s assessment of it being a ‘pure accident’.”

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