Campaigners have been celebrating this week following news that a dolphin therapy centre in the Turkish holiday resort of Marmaris seems set to close.

The controversial operation kept dolphins in enclosures so they could offer therapeutic session to visitors who paid to swim with them.However, following increasing pressure from environmentalists who wanted the animals set free, it’s been reported that owners of the land where the centre is currently based have confirmed its contract will not be renewed.

Prominent campaigner Tracey Özdemir used her Facebook page to welcome the decision, although she also warned rehabilitating the dolphins for a return to the wild could take some time.

This is a very long process that could take two to three years, a lot of hard work, time and a great deal of money, but the end result will be so worth it,” she wrote. “I have not stopped crying tears of joy, I keep pinching myself to check that I am not dreaming.
A small group of us will be flying out to call a meeting to discuss the future of the dolphins.
Our fight does not end here; this is the second time campaigners have made this happen in Turkey and we will continue until we have shut down every dolphin park in Turkey and we persuade the Turkish Government to ban dolphin captivity.”

Tom and Misha’s plight

The news was also welcomed yesterday by Nichola Chapman, who was a member of the Dolphin Angels group which linked up with the Born Free Foundation to lead an international campaign for the release of two dolphins kept in a swimming pool in the holiday resort of Hisarönü, near Fethiye, in 2012.

Tom & Misha’s plight made the national press in the UK and was even featured in National Geographic magazine.

“Obviously, it’s great news and – if you also count the one in Kaş – this is the third centre to be closed after pressure from campaigners in Turkey,” she said.

Nichola Chapman (centre) and other campaigners who fought Tom & Misha’s case during the operation to release them back into the wild in 2012

“All of us involved in protesting against facilities like these will be delighted with the news. It sends a clear message that this sort of thing isn’t tolerated by modern society any more. Dolphins and other creatures like them belong in the sea not in enclosures.”

Nichola added lessons learned from earlier releases recorded in the evaluation report produced by the Born Free Foundation could be applied to help speed up the rehabilitation process for the dolphins in Marmaris.

“However, undoubtedly, there are likely to be considerable costs involved. All those who have supported the campaign are looking forward to hearing more news about how the rehabilitation will be supported and managed.”