Three dolphins at the Mediterraneo Marine Park at Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq died in the span of a month last year, an animal activist group has claimed.

In a press conference on Saturday, Animal Liberation Malta said that between August and September of 2021 three female dolphins died at the marine park. The news was never made public nor was it registered in the non-profit cetacean register Ceta-Base, as is common practice in other international wildlife parks.

“We question the reason behind this secrecy and why regulating authorities did not flag anything about it nearly a year after their untimely deaths,” a spokesperson for the group said.

“We do not know whether a necropsy was carried out by an independent vet or whether authorities have made their own investigations. This case should have been considered seriously given not one, but three dolphins died in the span of a month.”

The group learned of the disappearance of the bottlenose dolphins from the UK-based NGO Marine Connection, whose director Margaux Dodds was advised by a member of the public that the animals were no longer in their tanks.

Dodds said that the civilian had been told by the park that the dolphins had been moved to a facility in Spain. But upon making inquiries with Maltese and Spanish authorities, she learned that the dolphins had in fact died at Mediterraneo.

Two of female dolphins that allegedly died, named Onda and Mar, were believed to be around 20 and 25 years old respectively, had been caught in the wild in Cuba and kept at Mediterraneo since 2000, the group said.

Video: Chris Sant Fournier

The third dolphin, Melita, was just seven years old and was born in the park in 2014. She never swam in the open sea.

“It’s ironic that Melita was named after a country she never had the chance to taste and never knew what it was like to live in the sea,” the spokesperson said. “In the sea she would have lived for several decades but unfortunately she lived and died in her tank.”

As of Saturday, Onda, Mar and Melita were still listed as living dolphins on Ceta-Base.  

ALM also called upon authorities to investigate why Mediterraneo is allowed to operate under a zoo licence, when their dolphin shows acted as a “permanent aquatic circus”. The law, they said, defined circuses as places where animals are introduced for the purpose of performance and shows, which Mediterraneo’s dolphin shows offer as a form of entertainment.

Circuses with animal performers have been banned in Malta since 2014.

ALM called on the government as well as the park owners to shut down Mediterraneo and transform it into a rehabilitation center for aquatic animals.

“The remaining dolphins should have the opportunity to be rehoused in sea pens, to live a natural life and end performing displays to the public.” 

Times of Malta has approached Mediterraneo for comment. 

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