Distressed baby dolphin dies during performance: 'The animals are struggling over there'
A 9-day-old dolphin died while performing in front of a crowd at a Bulgarian water park earlier this month, reports the BBC, while citing BTV Novinite.
The incident reportedly occurred at a dolphinarium in the city of Varna on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, according to one spectator.
"There was a disturbance, the dolphins stopped playing and performing tricks," Bisser Lyubenov recalled.
Park staff then allegedly ended the show early and asked visitors to leave. Still, tourists were able to see the baby dolphin's body in the park's cafe, another spectator said.
Though the dolphinarium denied that the episode ever occurred, Tsvetan Stanev, a biologist at the zoo, told BTV Novinite that the baby and its mother had both been separated from other dolphins following the calf's birth.
"You can't have a mother leaving its child in order to take part in the show," he said. "This can happen about six months after the birth. A baby dolphin taking part in performances nine days after it was born — this has never happened in this dolphinarium!"
This isn't the first time the park has been mired in controversy, according to Four Paws, an animal rights organization. At least six animals, five dolphins and a seal, have purportedly died at the dolphinarium over the past five years — a figure much higher than that of other parks, said Four Paws's Yavor Gechev.
"This means categorically that conditions don't meet even the minimal standards for keeping such animals," he said. "The animals are struggling there, they are not surviving."
Four Paws also noted that a recent change in Bulgaria's legislation now allows the dolphinarium's two sea lions, which have been used to "kiss" tourists for photos, to also take part in live shows.
"If shows involving sea lions are allowed to happen, this will be hell for the animals," Gechev said. "Lawmakers need to change the way they think, and consider banning or limiting the existing performances with dolphins instead."
Since the baby dolphin's death, several people on social media have called for the park to shut down.
"I saw the show once and I'm still horrified about the way the dolphins get treated!" one person wrote. "It's clear that a big profit is made at the expense of the animals who are forced to perform too often."
The baby dolphin's passing comes just two weeks after photos of an emaciated elephant in Sri Lanka surfaced and sparked outrage from animal rights activists.