Armenia may not have a sea, but the Yerevan city government was once proud to say that, like “many developed cities in the world,” it did have a dolphinarium. Not any more. To the cheers (and jeers) of environmentalists, the Ukrainian company that ran the controversial facility has decided to set sail for fresh waters.
The 900-visitor dolphinarium, one of three in the South Caucasus (Baku and Batumi also have dolphin tanks), was built in 2010 in a downtown Yerevan park at about the same speed with which it is now being dismantled. The facility’s senior management cite the end of their “period of operations” as the reason for the decision to pull out.
“The animals have been moved to Ukraine; the performances are over since the period of operation has expired,” Nemo Dolphinarium Director Lili Sahakian told EurasiaNet.org. “This is the only reason.”
But environmental activists claim the real reason is entirely different.
“How could the dolphins survive in Armenia, which has no sea? Could they bear the extremely chlorinated water of the pool, the endless performances, or the frozen fish they were fed?” asked Silva Adamian, chairperson of the Bird Lovers’ Center, a non-governmental organization which heads an alliance of 50 NGOs which opposed the dolphinarium’s opening.
“Back in 2010, we talked to international specialists and they said the animals won’t last even two years. So, we now have what we have.”
The Nemo dolphinarium featured four 2.5-meter-long dolphins, a sea lion and seals, which performed their tricks in a relatively tiny pool – just five meters deep and 16 meters in radius. Environmentalists argued that the size and standards of the pool did not meet the mammals’ needs, and warned that the highly chlorinated water could cause the dolphins severe health problems.