Four dolphins that were brought to Kas from Bodrum in December 2011 were suddenly moved this week as the controversial attraction closed. Pressure groups are welcoming the closure but are cautious as the dolphins are still in captivity.
Hidden under blankets the two dolphins that had languished behind the rusty metal fencing at the tiny Kaş dolphin facility for the past eighteen months were abruptly evacuated and transferred to another dolphin facility 150 kilometres away in Kemer, Antalya.
The news of their sudden departure, set against a backdrop of a long standing decision by the local council to refuse to allow them to open to the public; a sustained local, national and international campaign of public opposition and pressure and a pending court case by the facilities owners against the council received a mixed reception from the Turkish NGO’s and campaigners that had led the protests to prevent the reopening of a dolphin facility in Kaş.
Kaş Underwater Association (KASAD) Board Member Belma Tosun said “The working permission application made by facility owners to the Municipality was rejected. After this, they took it to the court. Transferring the dolphins to another place before the court’s reply, shows that the facility owners have no hope left in Kaş. This is a very good development. We hope the process in Kaş can be an example for the people living in cities with dolphin parks and it can put them into action. We are ready to help the NGOs in these areas in any way we can”.
Still in Captivity
Derya Özkan a spokesperson for the Freedom for Dolphin’s Platform (FFDP) said that “local people and NGO’s had combined to present an effective campaign of opposition to the dolphin facility”. However the dolphins are still in captivity just in a different venue and concerns for the health of the two dolphins remain and had already been raised by prominent Turkish author and writer Buket Uzuner who had demanded a health check should be carried out by a dolphin specialist veterinarian at a recent meeting, 8th April with the District Governor Selami Kapankaya. This followed the handing over to the Mayor of Kaş Abdullah Gültekin of a Change.org Turkey petition signed by more than 20,000 people calling for the dolphin facility in Kaş to be closed and a second well attended public protest by opponents of all nationalities in the town square.
A fear that the one of the reasons the dolphins have been moved is to avoid health checks presents an issue of paramount concern to members of the NGO’s leading the campaign of opposition. Özkan made it clear that they intend to pursue whatever action is necessary to ensure the health checks are carried out by a dolphin specialist veterinarian and to see the dolphins confiscated under government protection and in accordance with the Animal Welfare law 5199.
Buket Uzuner cautiously welcomed the news of the dolphin’s departure from Kaş but again expressed her concerns for the health of the dolphins and promised to support the FFDP and WWF Turkey in the continuing fight to ensure the health checks are carried out as soon as possible.
In a response to questions about the dolphins move it has been reported by Serkan Ocak that the owners of the facility in Kaş said they had been moved for economic reasons. Derya Özkan stated, “the companies which exploit captive animals for business suffer economically and shut down eventually as a result of dedicated pursuit on local, national and international levels. Now, we will make sure that the Kaş dolphin facility is shut down legally as well. We will continue to direct our attention to the dolphins which were transferred to Kemer as well as all the other captive dolphins in Turkey until the day there is a dolphin rehabilitation centre to help them return back to the oceans where they belong. We will not rest until all captive dolphin facilities in Turkey are closed and relevant legislation to prevent new ones opening is in place”.