"There was a disturbance, the dolphins stopped playing and performing tricks," recalled a member of the audience.
Separated from its mother and made to perform for an audience just days after its birth, a baby dolphin died right in the middle of a performance at a water park in Bulgaria.
The dolphin was just nine days old when it was made to perform for a packed audience alongside other adult sea creatures. And according to local reports, it's over-worked baby body gave up in front of the spectators, who were then rushed outside by the staff at the Varna Dolphinarium, according to Mail Online.
"There was a disturbance, the dolphins stopped playing and performing tricks," recalled Biser Lyubenov, who was part of the audience.
DISGUSTING! This 9-DAY-OLD baby died from being "overworked". NEVER support animal abusement parks.https://t.co/QEGcWREnFv— PETA UK (@PETAUK) August 30, 2019
Although the marine park denies that it happened during a live performance, it was reported that visitors could see the baby dolphin's dead body from the park's café.
It can take a toll on a calf when they are torn apart from their mother when they're so young, especially in the name of "entertainment". "You can't have a mother leaving its child in order to take part in the show. This can happen about six months after the birth," said Tsvetan Stanev, the facility's biologist, as reported by BBC.
"A baby dolphin taking part in performances nine days after it was born - this has never happened in this dolphinarium!"
At the aquarium, the dolphins perform four shows every single day in the summer, which can be exhausting. Environmentalists believe that the number of shows they perform is too many. According to a translated version of BTV Novinite's report, Maria Radulova of the Society for the Protection of Animals said, "They take away the energy of the animals, the more they jump and this, they really are animals, we know they are energetic, but it's under command, it's not like in the free ocean."
The death toll of animals at this particular marine park is quite high, having seen the death of five animals and one seal over the span of five years. Yavor Gechev from the animal protection organisation Four Paws highlighted that the mortality rate was higher than what other marine parks exhibit. He said, "This means categorically that conditions don't meet even the minimal standards for keeping such animals."
"The animals are struggling there, they are not surviving."
The incident in Bulgaria that claimed the life of a nine-day-old victim saw great outrage and a petition is also being passed around in the hopes of seeing the park close down. One person also shared on Facebook, "I saw the show once and I'm still horrified about the way the dolphins get treated! It's clear that a big profit is made at the expense of the animals who are forced to perform too often."
Creatures like dolphins thrive when they have the freedom to enjoy the length and breadth of a vast ocean, and captivity can be harmful for them.
Even when dolphins and whales are fed well and have a vet's eye on them when they are in captivity, they still die young, according to IMMP (International Marine Mammal Project).
Look at this poor Dolphin. His ribs are visible. This was taken in Festa dolphinarium varna Bulgaria pic.twitter.com/bYZIXRT49m— Dr. Kate Riordan. (@cathorio) February 9, 2014
While dolphins in the wild would live and roam with their families, the ones in captivity are stressed from having to make small tanks their homes and are grouped with creatures who might be strangers to them. Most of the time, they are even kept hungry so that they respond better to food while performing.
IMMP wrote, "Dolphins and whales simply do not belong in captivity for our pleasure – they belong in the ocean."